The Obama administration’s release of five senior Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the Taliban’s freeing of U.S. Army deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl not only is in violation of a federal law (Sec. 1035 of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act), the prisoner swap also went against explicit advice of senior U.S. military and intelligence leaders.
FOX News reports, June 6, 2014:
Senior military officials had advised President Obama not to make the Taliban-for-Bergdahl trade, a senior Defense official told Fox News, likening it to “handing over five four-star generals of the Taliban.”
The claim adds to the picture that is emerging about the tense internal debate over whether to proceed with freeing five hardened Taliban leaders from Guantanamo in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release.
Sources told Fox News earlier this week that the Obama administration largely bypassed the intelligence community to green-light the swap, after such an exchange was first floated several years ago.
The Defense official, in explaining internal military opposition to the exchange, said many in the military considered Bergdahl to be a traitor — a reference to allegations that he deliberately abandoned his post in 2009.
Yet on the other end of the trade were five high-value, sought-after Taliban leaders. The U.S. government’s own records show some of them had ties to top terror figures including Mullah Omar and Usama bin Laden. […]
According to secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account and obtained by Fox News, Bergdahl at one point during his captivity converted to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam. […]
The reports indicate that Bergdahl’s relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, “he became much more of an accepted fellow” than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times. […]
Amid concerns that the Bergdahl trade has created huge security risks, President Obama said earlier this week that the U.S. would be “keeping eyes” on the Taliban members while they spend the next year in Qatar. At the same time, he acknowledged there’s “absolutely” a risk that the former Guantanamo inmates will try to return to the battlefield.
Some of them reportedly already have made that vow. NBC reported Friday that Noorullah Noori, one of the freed prisoners, pledged to return and fight Americans in Afghanistan, according to a Taliban commander.
Worse still, the Obama administration may have paid a ransom for the release of Bergdahl.
Fox News reports that the U.S. paying a cash ransom for Bergdahl was under discussion as recently as December of last year. But according to the Washington Free Beacon, a senior US intelligence official with extensive experience dealing with Bergdahl’s captors, the Haqqanis, believes that cash changed hands as part of the deal.
He said, “The Haqqanis could give a rat’s ass about prisoners. The people that are holding Bergdahl want[ed] cash and someone paid it to them.” A number of news reports on the prisoner exchange mistakenly have used “Haqqani” and “Taliban” interchangeably. The Obama administration might not have paid ransom to the Taliban, but most likely had paid cash to the Haqqanis. The intelligence official explains: Haqqani “benefits zero from the prisoner exchange. … Based on 10 years of working with those guys, the only thing that would make them move Bergdahl is money. We just funded them for the next 10 years is my guess.”
This article first appeared at Consortium of Defense Analysts.