Six Hidden Disasters In Obama’s Bergdahl Disaster

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is hiding information about his decision to trade five top Taliban leaders for a single American deserter.

Obama’s deputies are trying to draw a curtain over the exchange, chiefly by sticking to a narrow set of talking points — a “sacred rule,” the soldier’s health, the Pentagon’s approval, etc.

But the hidden information could worsen his massive P.R. problem and nudge millions of worried swing-voters into the anti-Obama column, just five months before the critical November election.

It seems clear that Obama broke a law requiring that he inform Congress before he released jihadis from Guantanamo. He clearly shredded the credibility of his top national security aide, Susan Rice, who declared that the deserter served with “honor and distinction,” and that he and his aides also incorrectly claimed Bergdahl was in poor health.

But those are relatively minor scandals compared to the emerging elements of what is becoming a very unpopular traitor-for-terrorists swap in the eyes of the public.

What did the Haqqani terror network get out of the deal?

Sergeant Bowe Bergdal deserted his post in June 2009 and was immediately held by the Haqqani network, not by the Taliban’s jihadi army. Yet Obama released five Taliban people — not Haqqani people — in exchange for Bergdahl. So what price persuaded the Haqqani network to give away their prized prisoner to benefit the Taliban? There’s several possibilities, mostly of them bad for the Obama.

The Haqqani network was formally declared a terror organization in a 2012 decision approved by Obama, so any deal where they had a role means that Obama was trading with terrorists, not merely the Taliban’s “enemy combatants.”

The network is backed by Pakistan. Maybe the Pakistani government made the Haqqani group hand over the prisoner in exchange for continued support. If so, then Pakistan — a supposed U.S. ally — made Obama hand over the five Taliban prisoners in exchange for returning one U.S deserter.

Are there any secret terms in the deal?

The Taliban got their five top guys back, but what did they pay in exchange? They didn’t have possession of Bergdahl, so they didn’t pay for their five guys by returning Bergdahl.

Maybe Obama got a commitment from the Taliban — or their backers, the Pakistani government — that they would not attack U.S. forces before Obama leaves office in 2017. If so, then Obama betrayed a U.S. ally — the mostly-elected government of Afghanistan — for the price of getting one deserter back home. In the future, what country will dare ally with the United States if they know that a U.S. president has betrayed an ally for one rotten bean.

Did Obama bulldoze opposition from White House and the Pentagon?

Press reports say Pentagon, intelligence and some White House officials opposed any trade with jihadis for various strategic reasons — i.e. the U.S. should not bargain with terrorists, it would create an incentive for other terrorists, etc.  But most of the opponents have left the administration, and Obama’s deputies tell reporters that they expected the uniformed military to “suck it up and salute.”

That’s the core job of the serving U.S. military, but who in the White House was stupid enough to think all veterans and soldiers would keep their mouths shut?

Numerous reports from Bergdahl’s comrades and officers show they think he betrayed a sacred trust to them, that he contributed to the death of up to 14 U.S. soldiers, and that he provided aid and comfort to a primitive and vicious enemy. For example, The Daily Caller reported June 4 on a leaked Army report that said the army’s huge effort to rescue Bergdahl contributed to the death of several U.S. soldiers at Camp Keating in October 2009. Drudge, for example, fronted a headline asking “Obama saved a rat?”

The White House’s response is yet more cover-up — they’re refusing to release any information about the Army’s investigation of Bergdahl’s desertion, they’re keeping him in medical solitary, and they’re spewing out vague talking-points about a “sacred rule” of not leaving American soldiers behind.

Why did Obama think the public and military would welcome the swap?

Several reports say that Obama expected a euphoric public reception to Bergdahl’s release. But if Bergdahl is a “rat,” why did he think the public would welcome his return?

Obama is a superlative politician, but he’s repeatedly shown he doesn’t understand many ordinary Americans. In 2008, for example, he explained conservatism as some sort of bitter clinging to guns and xenophobia in the face of economic betrayal. In 2011,  during talks over budget cuts, Obama offered a deal he never expected the GOP to take — massive “sequestration” cuts to the military and domestic spending — and was surprised when the GOP accepted the deal.

In the Bergdahl case, Obama was so out-of-touch that he even invited Bergdahl’s father to his Rose Garden announcement, and Bergdahl’s dad repaid the favor by openly praising the Taliban’s virtual leader, the Islamic deity of Allah. The visuals weren’t helped when the dad didn’t remove his Taliban-style beard before the televised press conference. Since then, Obama’s co-speaker has continued his push for the release of more dangerous jihadis from the secure U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay.

However, it is possible that Obama didn’t care about the military’s reaction. The timing of the deal suggests he gave the final approval to the Emir of Qatar on the day before he gave a rambling speech to West Point cadets, whom he subtly dissed by demoting their role below that of diplomats and international lawyers. The West Point cadets and families repaid the favor by sitting on their hands during most of the speech.

What’s the impact of the Taliban trade on Afghan politics?

The U.S. has fought a war for 13 years to help build up an alternative Afghan government to the Taliban. That goal was so popular among Americans in 2009 that Obama committed extra troops to battle, and allowed roughly 1,300 more soldiers die under his command.

But many reports say Obama is so eager to leave Afghanistan after 13 years of struggle that he released the five Taliban leaders in exchange for the one U.S. deserter who remained behind. Obama’s only known condition is that the five leaders remain in the Islamic theocracy of Qatar for one year.

But the five are already reportedly helping to raise funds from rich Arabs in the adjacent oil-rich kingdoms and have boosted the morale of the Taliban jihadis who continue their military campaign to overthrow the United State’s ally in Kabul.

Obviously, the deal pissed off Afghanistan’s outgoing president, Hamid Karzai, and likely will roil the lengthy and complex tribal and ethnic debate to replace Karzai’s government this summer after the presidential election winner is announced mid-June.

Instead of cutting Afghan leaders out of the negotiations, Obama could have included them in the deal, or even given many of the Guantanamo prisoners to the Afghan government as bargaining chips in their war against the Taliban, which terrorized and slaughtered large slices of the country before U.S. forces took over in 2001.

The new government must also decide whether to accept the already-finalized “Status of Forces Agreement” that governs how much legal authority the Afghan government will have over U.S. soldiers fighting on its soil in 2015 and 2016.

Obama has said that if they reject that completed agreement — perhaps because the Taliban trade may have undermined various Afghan groups’ trust in Obama — then he’ll pull all U.S. forces out by the end of 2014. That cascade of distrust and threats could leave the Taliban back in charge of Afghanistan in 2015 — and again hosting a secure base for their al Qaida allies.

In 2010, Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq — effectively giving up all U.S. influence — when the fractious government didn’t sign a similar agreement as fast as he wanted.

When the U.S. left South Vietnam in 1973, the Democratic-majority Congress cut off military aid. That left the country exposed to a massive land attack by North Vietnam’s army of Russian-made tanks in 1975. In Afghanistan, Obama may have raised the bar further by abandoning an ally and simultaneously aiding a shared enemy.

How will this P.R. disaster impact the November midterm election?

Obama’s top priority is keeping the Senate in Democratic hands this fall. But the P.R. disaster has the potential to solidify growing opposition to him from middle-class Americans.

A Washington Post poll showed that 60 percent of independents disapprove of Obama’s overall performance, and 47 percent of swing-voting moderates oppose his foreign policy, including 28 percent declaring strong opposition. His slow-motion retreat from Afghanistan gets 45 percent support. That includes 50 percent support among moderates, and opposition from 39 percent of the moderates and 31 percent of liberals. The poll of 1,002 adults, was taken from May 29 to June 1, before the Bergdahl swap had a chance to shift opinion.

A very similar CNN poll taken over the same period shows 56 percent overall disapproval of his Afghan polices, including 63 percent opposition among independents.

The next set of polls should show if the growing scandal has done any damage to Obama’s support among swing-voters.

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