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Obama's prisoner exchange not a smart move, say critics

An American soldier captured and held prisoner by terrorists in Afghanistan was freed by his captors in return for the United States releasing five Afghan terrorists held in the detention center on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to the Obama White House on Saturday. But many counterterrorism experts in both the military and police communities say it was not a smart move when the global war on terrorism keeps trudging along.

Sgt Bergdahl's suffering at the hands of Islamists is now over; but at what price?
Sgt Bergdahl's suffering at the hands of Islamists is now over; but at what price?
The American Forces Press Service

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was turned over to members of the U.S.special forces by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan which is adjacent to the Pakistani border. Media reports claim the trade went smoothly and that Sgt. Bergdahl appears to be in good physical condition.

While President Barack Obama said in an almost celebratory tone that Bergdahl's release "is a reminder of America's unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield," he failed to mention that his administration's "big show" of the prisoner trade and release -- instead of secret negotiations and deal-making -- will put U.S. troops throughout the world in danger of being abducted and uses as "bargaining chips" by terrorists and rogue nations, according to former U.S. Marine and police detective Sid Franes.

"For decades, this country under both Democrat and Republican presidents, followed a simple policy: We will not negotiate with terrorists. But in one fell swoop, [President] Obama appears to have kicked that policy to the side of the road," said Franes. "This president decided to showboat to prove who isn't a weak Commander in Chief, but a weak Commander in Chief allowed five dangerous men to be released," he added.

Another former military officer who became a police officer, Mike Snopes, agrees that Obama may have made a serious mistake by exchanging five terrorists for one American soldier.

"These guys will most probably return to the 'battlefield' and may end up killing more Americans in Afghanistan or other Muslim nation," Snopes said. "While we all want to see an American warrior brought home to his country, will we end up regretting the exchange when those five Islamists kill more American soldiers or civilians?"

According to news media in the Middle East, the prisoner exchange was the result of negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban being mediated by the government of Qatar. Qatar is taking custody of the five Afghan detainees who were held at Guantanamo and many Americans are hoping Qatar deals with them accordingly.

Bergdahl, who was born and raised in Idaho, has been held by the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network since June 30, 2009. Haqqani has often crossed Afghanistan-Pakistan border region in order to attack U.S. coalition forces.

In order to give Obama as much positive press as possible the news media is depicting the release of the young American as a victory for Obama. For example, one media source mentioned that the U.S. government been seeking Bergdahl's release for a long time, when President Obama finalized plans to pull nearly all American forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016, he did not wish to leave even one soldier behind.

The detainees were among the most dangerous and ruthless prisoners. One of them, Mohammad Fazl, could be prosecuted for war crimes for his ordering the mass killing of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001. The Taliban and al-Qaida are both Sunni Muslim groups with a hatred for Shiites.

According to the U.S. military's press office, the other four terrorists released on Saturday are:

—Mohammed Nabi, who served as chief of security for the Taliban in Qalat, Afghanistan, and later worked as a radio operator for the Taliban's communications office in Kabul.

—Mullah Norullah Nori, a senior Taliban commander in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif when the Taliban fought U.S. forces in late 2001.

—Abdul Wasiq, who served as the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence.

—Khairullah Khairkhwa, who served in various Taliban positions including interior minister and had direct ties to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden.