Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan, was released Saturday by Taliban captors, an announcement that has Americans rejoicing but also is raising questions on Capitol Hill and beyond about “negotiating with terrorists.”
Bergdahl was released from captivity after nearly five years, in exchange for five Taliban members being held in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Bergdahl was taken prisoner after leaving his base in east Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. Why he left and whether he’ll face any consequences for his actions remains unclear.
U.S. officials said the deal was reached after a week of intense negotiations that were mediated by the Qatar government, which will take custody of the Taliban detainees.
“We ...made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home. It's who we are as Americans,” President Obama said Saturday evening in a Rose Garden ceremony flanked by Bergdahl's parents. “Today, at least in this instance, it's a promise we've been able to keep."
“Like all Americans, we celebrate the release of Sergeant Bergdahl,” California Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a joint statement.
“However, we must carefully examine the means by which we secured his freedom. America has maintained a prohibition on negotiating with terrorists for good reason. Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans.”
They also argued that Obama “clearly violated laws” that require him to notify Congress 30 days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated.
A department official also gave Fox News the names of the detainees: Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, and Abdul Haq Wasiq.
They are believed to be the top five Taliban leaders at the prison and were selected in 2012 by Taliban leaders as part of initial negotiations.
The detainees from Guantanamo were still at the base as of Saturday and are being transferred into the custody of Qatar officials. Under the conditions of their release, the detainees will be banned from traveling outside of Qatar for at least one year.
They are being transferred via a U.S. Air Force C-17 plane.