Every American shares the Bergdahl family's joy that their son has been released after being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for nearly five years, traded for five Taliban members held at the U.S. prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. That said, there are multiple questions Americans should be asking about the deal that resulted in Bowe Bergdahl's freedom, beginning with why he walked away from his unit in the dark of night. The families of the six men who died trying to find Bergdahl in the immediate aftermath especially deserve to know the full truth on this question.
Then there is the seeming disproportionality of the deal. The five Taliban being released include Khirullah Khairkhwa, a Taliban founder and former provincial governor, military commanders Mullah Mohammad Fazl and Mullah Norullah Noori, and security officials Mohammad Nabi Omari and Abdul Haw Wasiq. They were chosen by the radical Afghan Jihadist movement, so they must be extremely important. Otherwise, why would the Taliban give up one of its most valuable negotiating tools, a captured U.S. soldier?
Mullah Omar, the Taliban's top leader who presumably approved the swap, hails the release of the five as “a big victory.” Let it not be forgotten that Omar ruled Afghanistan when the Taliban provided sanctuary and support to al Qaeda as it planned and carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Then there is the matter of timing. Even assuming Qatar fulfills its end of the deal and keeps the five on ice for a year, they will surely be back on the battlefield sometime. How many more Americans will die because of new attacks that will occur because these five were set free? But that probably won't be President Obama's problem because he will most likely be out of office or close to being so when it begins happening.
There is another troubling aspect to the deal's timing. On Feb. 1, 2012, Chuck Hoskinson - now the Washington Examiner's opinion editor but then Politico's Morning Defense editor - reported that Obama officials had confirmed they were in negotiations for “a possible deal to move Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a boost to stalled peace talks” in Afghanistan. The deal was to include five unnamed Taliban officers and it required that Congress be notified at least 30 days in advance of it being consummated. In the event, Congress was not notified at all.
It should be noted that last week was a terrible week for Obama, with a West Point commencement address on foreign policy Wednesday that was universally panned as utterly empty of substance and the resignation Friday of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki as the torrent of VA horror stories continued to swell. Considering the history of these negotiations with the Taliban, there are reasonable grounds to ask exactly when the deal became one to free Bergdahl rather than to renew peace talks and who suggested the change in terms. After all, this is the White House that never lets a crisis go to waste.