Thursday, June 5, 2014

Following Closed-Door Briefing on Bergdahl, Many U.S. Senators Still Not Conviced Swap Was Right

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 9:07 AM

Four days after the controversial swap of five Taliban POWs to secure the freedom of Idaho native and U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, top Pentagon officials went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to win more support for the mission. But that apparently failed.

"I still am totally convinced that they released five people who were judged a risk to the security of this country," said Arizona Republican Sen. and former Vietnam War POW John McCain. "I guarantee you that a year from now—if not before—they will be back in Afghanistan."

But Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin told media upon merging from the closed-door session where senators were shown a recent proof-of-life video of Bergdahl prior to his release that the only U.S. military POW of the war in Afghanistan appeared to be drugged or tired.

"He didn't look well to me," said Durbin. "I think it was a very hard decision."

Meanwhile, a former top White House aide, who until last year served as the Pentagon's top official overseeing policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the White House had been regularly considering all of its options prior to the POW swap.

"There were negotiating paths we could have explored other than the Taliban in Doha," David Sedney told the Washington Post. "Specifically, putting more pressure on the Pakistanis to get him or get us more intelligence. I am not aware of them actually helping us, despite repeated requests. It could have made the possibility of rescuing him more likely."

And President Barack Obama, traveling in Poland, continued to push back against criticism over the deal to secure Bergdahl's freedom.

"We saw an opportunity, and we were concerned about Bergdahl's health," said Obama. "Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely. There's a certain recidivism rate that takes place."

And a senior administration official, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity, said White House officials apologized to some U.S. senators this week, saying "we regretted we were not able to reach some members personally on Saturday. We have been very clear about the reasons we did not notify the Congress 30 days in advance."


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