Bergdahl released; questions remain
Bowe Begdahl has been held captive for almost five years, and during that time I've received hundreds of emails to discuss his captivity. Whenever possible I have avoided it. Apparently like a ton of other folks out doing interviews today, I have some grave concerns over his "capture."
But first let's look at what the official American Legion position was:
Resolution 27, passed at the 2011 Spring NEC meeting:
RESOLVED, By the National Executive Committee of The American Legion in regular meeting assembled in Indianapolis, Indiana, on October 12-13, 2011, That The American Legion calls on the Department of Defense to utilize all reasonable efforts for the safe repatriation of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
Mullah Mohammad Fazl (Taliban army chief of staff): Fazl is “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites.” Fazl “was associated with terrorist groups currently opposing U.S. and Coalition forces including al Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), and an Anti-Coalition Militia group known as Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami.” In addition to being one of the Taliban’s most experienced military commanders, Fazl worked closely with a top al Qaeda commander named Abdul Hadi al Iraqi, who headed al Qaeda’s main fighting unit in Afghanistan prior to 9/11 and is currently detained at Guantanamo.
Mullah Norullah Noori (senior Taliban military commander): Like Fazl, Noori is “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims.” Beginning in the mid-1990s, Noori “fought alongside al Qaeda as a Taliban military general, against the Northern alliance.” He continued to work closely with al Qaeda in the years that followed.
Abdul Haq Wasiq (Taliban deputy minister of intelligence): Wasiq arranged for al Qaeda members to provide crucial intelligence training prior to 9/11. The training was headed by Hamza Zubayr, an al Qaeda instructor who was killed during the same September 2002 raid that netted Ramzi Binalshibh, the point man for the 9/11 operation. Wasiq “was central to the Taliban's efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against U.S. and Coalition forces after the 11 September 2001 attacks,” according to a leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment.
Khairullah Khairkhwa (Taliban governor of the Herat province and former interior minister): Khairkhwa was the governor of Afghanistan’s westernmost province prior to 9/11. In that capacity, he executed sensitive missions for Mullah Omar, including helping to broker a secret deal with the Iranians. For much of the pre-9/11 period, Iran and the Taliban were bitter foes. But a Taliban delegation that included Kharikhwa helped secure Iran’s support for the Taliban’s efforts against the American-led coalition in late 2001. JTF-GTMO found that Khairkhwa was likely a major drug trafficker and deeply in bed with al Qaeda. He allegedly oversaw one of Osama bin Laden’s training facilities in Herat.
Mohammed Nabi (senior Taliban figure and security official): Nabi “was a senior Taliban official who served in multiple leadership roles.” Nabi “had strong operational ties to Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) groups including al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), some of whom remain active in ACM activities.” Intelligence cited in the JTF-GTMO files indicates that Nabi held weekly meetings with al Qaeda operatives to coordinate attacks against U.S.-led forces.
In short, these were some SERIOUSLY bad dudes. Now, all of us should properly rejoice in getting Bowe back, but some are expressing concerns over the guys we released. Apparently the only people happier than the Bergdahl's are the Taliban, according to the Long War Journal:
The five Taliban leaders were exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since 2009.
A copy of the statement attributed to Omar has been posted on the Taliban's Urdu-language web site.
Omar thanks the government of Qatar, as well as its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, for his help in brokering the deal and for hosting the Taliban leaders. In earlier statements, both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry similarly thanked Qatar for its assistance.
Omar offers his "heartfelt congratulations to the entire Afghan Muslim nation," including "all the mujahideen and to the families and relatives of the prisoners for this great victory."
Meanwhile, troops that served with Bergdahl, or who lost buddies looking for him are decidedly unhappy, according to Jake Tapper:
“I was pissed off then and I am even more so now with everything going on,” said former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”
Vierkant said Bergdahl needs to not only acknowledge his actions publicly but face a military trial for desertion under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Disappearing from a military post in a war zone without authorization commonly results in one of two criminal charges in the Army: desertion or going absent without leave, or AWOL. Desertion is the more serious one, and usually arises in cases where an individual intends to remain away from the military or to “shirk important duty,” including a combat deployment such as Bergdahl’s.
Javier Ortiz, a former combat medic in the Army, said he is frustrated with Bergdahl’s actions and thinks he should be tried for desertion, even after five years in captivity in Pakistan. Many U.S. troops had misgivings about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while they were deployed but did not act on them as Bergdahl did, said Ortiz, of Lawton, Okla.
“I had a responsibility while I was there to the guys I was with, and that’s why this hits the hardest,” said Ortiz, who was in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2004 with the 101st Airborne Division. “Regardless of what you learned while being there, we still have a responsibility to the men to our left and right. It’s terrible, what he did.”
CNN even raised the concerns of some that President Obama had violated the law with the swap:
Bowe's dad seems to be fueling the fire as well with a series of somewhat bizarre Tweets. As Twicthy noted, one of his first tweets (subsequently deleted) stated that:
Unfortunately Mr. Bergdahl has also made other odd tweets, including saying that Afghanistan is a lot like Idaho. I'm not really sure how that fits. I haven't seen the casualty rates in Idaho lately, but I am guessing you can go to work without using an MRAP.
I suspect it will take a while before we get all the answers we want. I'm truly glad that Bowe is back, and we don't have to have assets in theater looking for him anymore. But with that said, there's about a million questions I have, and I fear that they won't be answered for quite a while. And that is as it should be, Bowe should be able to re-assimilate into society before he starts getting grilled. But people died while looking for him, and if I was one of the families of those fallen heroes I also would want to know what happened.
Legion: Sgt Bergdahl release is good, Gitmo releases are bad
INDIANAPOLS (June 2, 2014) – The leader of the nation’s largest veterans service organization raised some concerns about the circumstances surrounding the recent release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban.
“First, to Sgt. Bergdahl, I say, ‘welcome home,’” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said today. “Your family has waited far too long to see you and we are happy that your five year nightmare has ended. To the administration, I say The American Legion has some very serious concerns.”
Dellinger, who is visiting troops in Europe this week, asked, “Has the United States changed its longheld policy of not negotiating with terrorists? Will this provide incentives for terrorists to kidnap other Americans? What assurances do we have that the five dangerous detainees being released from Guantanamo will not return to the battlefield?
“While Qatar will institute a travel ban on the released detainees for 12 months, our troops won’t be leaving Afghanistan until 2016,” Dellinger added. “There are many troubling aspects about this deal and the American people deserve some answers. Moreover, we hope the Department of Defense does a complete investigation of the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bergdahl’s initial disappearance and take whatever steps are warranted by the findings of that investigation.”
With a current membership of 2.4-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through nearly 14,000 posts across the nation.