Pentagon Official: Why Obama Made The Taliban Trade

Joseph Miller Contributor
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Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.

Here is the truth: The deal to trade five senior Taliban detainees to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was political. It was publicly justified with lies, it breaks decades of U.S. policy, it breaks American law, it puts Americans at risk, it undermines the government of Afghanistan, and it passes responsibility on to the next administration.

But first of all, it was political.

But no, it was not to take the spot light off of the failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Simply stated, it was because so long as Bergdahl remained in Taliban captivity in Pakistan, the Obama administration would never be able to close the chapter of the failed Afghanistan campaign it has owned since approving — and then under-resourcing — a surge of U.S. forces in the country. (Pentagon Official: Obama Conducting Foreign Policy Based On Polling — Not US Safety)

Bergdahl’s captivity served as a constant reminder of President Barack Obama’s strategic failures while U.S. forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan. That’s something the Democrats cannot allow going into 2014 and 2016 elections. So the president agreed to an unprecedented deal in blatant violation of U.S. law and established precedent that undermines the safety and security of the United States and her citizens, once again choosing short-term political gain over long-term security interests. (Pentagon Official: Obama’s Afghanistan Fantasy Today Is America’s Nightmare Tomorrow)

Claims of new information on Bergdahl’s deteriorating health are simply false justifications. Bergdahl’s health was in no worse shape than should be reasonably expected of someone who had been a prisoner for five years. He walked without assistance into the waiting company of U.S. special operations forces, and then climbed aboard the waiting helicopter. He was mentally sound enough to recognize what was going on around him and to communicate with American forces. And none of the medical or psychological issues that he has displayed symptoms are life threatening. So this was just another example of the administration trying to justify its actions.

Additionally, the decision breaks with a decades-old standing U.S. policy to never negotiate with terrorists. Bergdahl was being held by the Haqqani Network in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. The Obama administration designated the Haqqani Network a terrorist organization just a few years ago. By negotiating with the Haqqani Network through the government of Qatar, the administration violated the policy. (Pentagon Official: Obama’s #ForeignPolicy? #AskMichelle)

Though this is not how the Obama administration sees it.

When CNN’s Candy Crowley asked National Security Advisor Susan Rice if the U.S. had negotiated with terrorists, Rice once again proved she shouldn’t be allowed on Sunday shows when she said no, because the United States had negotiated the deal through Qatar. But a child can understand that the Qataris passing our messages to the Taliban — and vice versa — makes the Qataris no different than a telephone or email service. We were negotiating with the Haqqanis no matter how you try to spin it.

And when asked why the administration failed to notify Congress about the Guantanamo Bay prison transfer despite U.S. law requiring the administration to notify Congress 30 days in advance of any transfer of prisoners from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, she said it was because they were worried it would jeopardize the deal.

So Rice and the administration were afraid that congressmen exercising their oversight might object to the release of five battle-hardened terrorists and suspected war criminals, or that the deal could leak. So instead, the administration chose to willfully violate U.S. law by not informing Congress.

And as for fears of a leak, the administration informed members of Congress about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden before it took place — something far more sensitive in terms of intelligence resources. Rice did, however, let us know that the administration had seen fit to consult with the Department of Justice about the deal.

The five detainees released were among the most senior members of the former Taliban government to be captured by the United States. They include the former Taliban minister of the interior, Taliban deputy minister of defense, Taliban deputy minister of intelligence, a senior Taliban military commander, and the Taliban governor of Herat Province.

Several of these men are accused of committing serious war crimes, including genocide. All of these men have Afghan and American blood on their hands.

Although the five Taliban commanders had been declared high risk, some have argued that they are too old and have been in prison for too long to make a successful return to the battlefield. Many detainees released from Guantanamo Bay have done just that, though. Surprise.

As part of the deal, these five men must remain in Qatar for one year before they are permitted to return to Afghanistan. And in doing so, the administration is once again kicking the can down the road.

In one year, the U.S. will have withdrawn all combat forces from Afghanistan — according to the president’s plan. These men will now become the Afghan government’s problem, and we can add them to the growing list of issues, including Iran, North Korea and Syria that this president is passing the buck on.

Finally, the administration failed to consult the government of Afghanistan before agreeing to this deal. In doing so, the Obama administration robbed Afghan President Karzai and his successor of potentially valuable bargaining chips in a larger reconciliation effort.

This deal essentially took chess pieces off of the board for the Afghans at a time when they were needed most, and has left the Afghan government in a position where it looks weak, incompetent and untrustworthy to its ally. That is not a good signal to send to the nation or the world just before the U.S. withdraws its combat forces and begins the final transition of responsibility to the Afghanistan and they’re security forces.

But all that is secondary in the Obama White House, where optics rule.

And the show must go on.

Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.