After five years of virtually unanimous Congressional silence about the detention of US POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released today in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban, House and Senate hawks lined up to condemn the deal that secured his release as “illegal” and a threat to US military interests.
House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R – CA) blasted the move as a violation of legal requirements to inform Congress 30 days before any releases of captive Taliban.
Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R – MI) declared himself “extremely troubled” by Bergdahl’s release, saying he believed it was a “fundamental shift in US policy” that would “threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come.”
The putative “controversy” centers around the idea that the US “doesn’t negotiate with terrorists,” and that anyone captured is essentially out of luck, barring some dramatic, TV news-friendly rescue operation.
Mysteriously, this line of thinking doesn’t flow both ways, as officials assume trades increase Taliban incentive to capture US troops, but don’t imagine that they simultaneously might increase the US incentive to capture trade-bait Taliban. Ultimately, the view is that Taliban “hostage-taking” is a mercenary endeavor, but US military detentions have no ulterior motives.
The most insulting aspect of the hostility toward Bergdahl’s release is that President Obama was already openly talking about releasing the five “traded” Taliban detainees unilaterally in March 2012 as a “confidence-building measure.” At the time, it was considered comparatively non-controversial.
It was only in 2013, when the Taliban suggested they release Bergdahl in a “swap,” that the release of the five suddenly started seeing any real opposition, suggesting that from the hawkish viewpoint, getting Bergdahl as a bonus in the releases somehow made them worse, and that nearly 13 years into a US occupation of Afghanistan, Beghdahl’s release is the first real incentive the Taliban have for trying to capture foreign occupation forces.