The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

June 2, 2014

Debate stirs over US-Taliban captive swap

WASHINGTON — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl can expect a buoyant homecoming after five years in Taliban hands, but those in the government who worked for his release face mounting questions over the prisoner swap that won his freedom.

Even in the first hours of Bergdahl’s handoff to U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan, it was clear this would not be an uncomplicated yellow-ribbon celebration. Five terrorist suspects also walked free, stirring a debate in Washington over whether the exchange will heighten the risk of other Americans being snatched as bargaining chips and whether the released detainees — several senior Taliban figures among them — would find their way back to the fight.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Bergdahl’s health and safety appeared in jeopardy, prompting rapid action to secure his release. “Had we waited and lost him,” said national security adviser Susan Rice, “I don’t think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.”

Republicans said the deal could set a troubling precedent — one called it “shocking.” Arizona Sen. John McCain said of the five Guantanamo detainees, “These are the hardest of the hard core.”

And in Kabul Monday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry called the swap “against the norms of international law” if it came against the five imprisoned Taliban detainees’ will. The ministry said: “No state can transfer another country’s citizen to a third country and put restriction on their freedom.”

Tireless campaigners for their son’s freedom, Bob and Jani Bergdahl thanked all who were behind the effort to retrieve him. “You were not left behind,” Bob Bergdahl told reporters, as if speaking to his son. “We are so proud of the way this was carried out.” He spoke in Boise, Idaho, wearing a long bushy beard he’d grown to honor his son, as residents in the sergeant’s hometown of Hailey prepared for a homecoming celebration.

The five detainees left Guantanamo aboard a U.S. military aircraft flying to Qatar, which served as go-between in the negotiations. They are to be banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year. Among the five: a Taliban deputy intelligence minister, a former Taliban interior minister with ties to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and a figure linked by human rights monitors to mass killings of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.

Bergdahl, 28, was being treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Officials did not offer details about Bergdahl’s health to support their contention that his release had to be arranged without delay. Rice on one hand said he had lost considerable weight and faced an “acute” situation. Yet she said he appeared to be “in good physical condition” and “is said to be walking.”

Questions persisted, too, about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s 2009 capture. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment on earlier reports that the sergeant had walked away from his unit, disillusioned with the war. Such matters “will be dealt with later,” Hagel said.

Hagel, visiting troops in Afghanistan, was met with silence when he told a group of them in a Bagram Air Field hangar: “This is a happy day. We got one of our own back.” It was unclear whether the absence of cheers and applause came from a reluctance to display emotion in front of the Pentagon chief or from any doubts among the troops about Bergdahl.

That same point was made Monday morning by White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Carney, who is leaving the White House after more than three years, said, “In a situation like this, you have a prisoner of war, a uniformed military person that was detained. The United States does not leave our men and women behind in conflict. It was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Asked in an NBC “Today” show interview about victory claims by the Taliban, Carney replied, “I caution anyone against buying the propaganda of terrorists.”

In weighing the swap, U.S. officials decided that it could help the effort to reach reconciliation with the Taliban, which the U.S. sees as key to more security in Afghanistan. But they acknowledged the risk that the deal would embolden insurgents.

Republicans pressed that point. “Have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists?”

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said, “I’m going to celebrate him coming home,” but added that the release of “five mid- to high-level Taliban is shocking to me, especially without coming to Congress.”

 

1
Text Only
News
  • Porter Another teen says he threw rock on I-80, too

    MIFFLINBURG — The father of the third juvenile charged as an adult in a July 10 rock-throwing attack that left an Ohio woman fighting for her life was apologetic following his son’s arraignment Monday.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victim of rock-throwers making progress

    DANVILLE — Sharon Budd, the 52-year-old Ohio woman fighting for her life after being hit by a rock thrown from an Interstate 80 overpass, is slowly coming around, according to her husband, Randy.

    July 22, 2014

  • Danville train diver left hospital 4 days before suicide

    DANVILLE — The young man who killed himself by diving under an Iron Heritage Festival passenger train underwent treatment in mental health facilities as recently as four days before his death, according to Montour County Coroner Scott E. Lynn.

    July 22, 2014

  • Mayor's dog recovering from attack

    DANVILLE — Bernie and Red Swank have two different routes they take daily when they walk their dogs, and at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday in the 200 block of Water Street, a German shepherd attacked Lex, their white 5-year-old lhasa apso.

    July 21, 2014

  • Basic subsidy for Lewisburg schools down slightly

    LEWISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed executive budget will provide the Lewisburg Area School District with an additional $90,457 from the state, but most of the increase will be reflected in $125,275 to support a Ready to Learn grant.

    July 21, 2014

  • Shikellamy extend deadline for school project

    The Shikellamy District board agreed at a special meeting last Thursday, to extend until Sept. 5, the deadline for the receipt of bid documents for the $17 million Shikellamy Middle School project. Bids were originally scheduled to be opened Tuesday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Second juvenile charged as adult in rock-throwing incident

    MIFFLINBURG — A second juvenile was charged as an adult Monday morning for his alleged involvement a July 10 rock-throwing incident that left an Ohio woman fighting for her life.

    July 21, 2014

  • Midd-West to hire Snook's replacement tonight

    Newport School District’s director of educational services is slated to be hired tonight by the Midd-West School Board to fill the vacant director of curricular and instruction position.

    July 21, 2014

  • rgbcar20abw.jpg My 1st Car Photo Contest Winner

    Maxton Mielke, Sunbury, won the My 1st Car photo contest this week. Photos can be entered in this week's contest: Pet lookalike at www.dailyitem.com/dailyblast. Look for the Outshoot the Experts contest and submit your best photos! Photos can also be submitted on our facebook page or via Instagram and Twitter with #dipets.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • "Buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence" against Russia

    Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

    July 21, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.