How could we justify leaving one behind?
The U.S. is pulling its soldiers out of Afghanistan — a long-planned exit that is likely overdue. So how could any U.S. citizen, or politician, take the position that we leave one — an Army sergeant who had been a captive of the Taliban for five years — behind.
The politics behind the prisoner exchange with the Taliban are tricky. There are charges that the Obama administration defied procedures by not alerting Congress to the plan that involved releasing five prisoners from Guantanamo. There are charges that the swap was one-sided — that the five freed prisoners will now rein terror on the U.S. in retaliation.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, was among those protesting the release. His letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asked how the U.S. can ensure that the released prisoners will not threaten America or its citizens. That’s a fair question.
There certainly are risks involved. It could embolden our enemies to capture soldiers, even civilians, and demand a similar exchange for prisoners in the future. But, as scary as that is, we’re sure it is not a new idea to our enemies.
And, we are aware of numerous media reports regarding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s mysterious disappearance and allegations that he deserted. That complicates a straight-forward POW hero narrative, but the military has not charged Bergdahl, who continued to receive pay and was promoted to staff sergeant, and we trust his conduct will be reviewed once he recovers from his ordeal.
We believe the exchange made sense.
It has been a decade since we shipped captured Taliban and other terrorist suspects to our base in Cuba. The prison there has been nothing but a hot button issue since. There has been no resolution how to bring those prisoners to trial or what we plan to do with them.
Meanwhile, a lone American languished in Taliban custody. Reports surfaced after his release that Bergdahl was in poor health and possibly near death.
Gen. Joseph Dunford spoke of the uptick in morale after news spread of Bergdahl’s release. “You almost got choked up,” he said. “It was pretty extraordinary.”
What would Rep. Buchanan and others say to Jani and Bob Bergdahl, parents from Boise, Idaho, if their son had died because we didn’t want to give up five suspects?
How could America look them in the eye and say their son was not as important as keeping those men behind bars?
Right now Sgt. Bergdahl’s condition is being called “acute.” One Army spokesperson all but said the sergeant would not have lived another 30 days.
We don’t know all the details concerning his release. It’s almost like a movie or some plot from the television show “24” — secret positioning and off-the-radar bargaining that is never made public.
But, as many critics rail over the release — making political hay in an election year — the lone remaining U.S. captive from our long war in Afghanistan will soon be on American soil.
Let’s disregard the politics and rumors and be happy he is coming home.