Fair exchange: An American POW is reunited with his family

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The question is, who could oppose the freeing after five years of captivity by the Taliban of a young American soldier whose health situation was becoming grave? The answer is, apparently some Republican members of Congress and Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai.

Most Americans were delighted to learn on Sunday that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of America’s enemies in Afghanistan had been freed in an exchange for five Taliban prisoners held for years at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Bergdahl was apparently the only American military prisoner the Taliban held after 13 years of warfare in Afghanistan.

The Republican members of Congress opposed to the exchange, common in wars for centuries, claimed that the Taliban might return to the battlefield against Americans remaining in Afghanistan. Qatar, which brokered the deal, claims that the five will be held under close surveillance for at least a year in that country, far from Afghanistan.

Another claim in the argument against the exchange was that the danger to the some 32,000 Americans remaining in Afghanistan would be increased by the exchange. There always has been and always will be a high premium for the Taliban in capturing an American in Afghanistan or Pakistan, exchange or no exchange.

The third argument some members have made against the exchange is that they are supposed to be informed 30 days in advance of any release of Guantanamo prisoners so that they can object if they want to. President Barack Obama waived this provision. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel pointed out that reports of the deteriorating health and worsening situation of Mr. Bergdahl made it necessary to obtain his release as soon as possible.

Mr. Karzai objected to the release of the five Taliban from Guantanamo to Qatar, as opposed to returning them to his government’s hands. The point there is that the United States has remained squeamish about returning Guantanamo prisoners in general to home countries where torture is practiced and the returned prisoner’s security would be in question.

The arguments against the exchange, which was carried out smoothly, putting Mr. Bergdahl for the moment in the hands of military medics and eventually with his parents in Idaho, are astonishing in their heartlessness at the plight of a young soldier. They are also clear evidence of the ends to which President Barack Obama’s opponents will go not to give his government credit for anything, even for freeing a suffering American prisoner held for five years.

 

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