Who could oppose the release, after five years of Taliban captivity, of an American soldier whose health situation was becoming grave? Some Republican members of Congress and Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, that’s who.
Last weekend, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of America’s enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was freed in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Bergdahl was apparently the only U.S. military prisoner the Taliban held after 13 years of war.
GOP lawmakers opposed the exchange, common in wars for centuries, claiming the released Taliban might return to the battlefield in Afghanistan. Qatar, which brokered the deal, say the five former inmates will be held under close surveillance for at least a year in that country, far from Afghanistan.
Another claim is that the danger to the 32,000 Americans who remain in Afghanistan will increase. There always has been, and always will be, a high premium for the Taliban in capturing an American, exchange or no exchange.
Lawmakers also complained they are supposed to be informed 30 days in advance of any release of Guantanamo prisoners, so that they can object. Mr. Obama waived this provision. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pointed out that reports of Sergeant Bergdahl’s deteriorating health made his release urgent.
President Karzai objected to the release of the five Taliban from Guantanamo to Qatar, rather than to his government. The United States is understandably reluctant to return prisoners to home countries where torture is practiced and their security would be in question.
The exchange was carried out smoothly, putting Mr. Bergdahl for the moment in the hands of military medics and eventually with his parents in Idaho. The objections are astonishing in their heartlessness at the plight of a young soldier.
They are also clear evidence of the ends to which President Obama’s opponents will go not to give his government credit for anything — even freeing a suffering American prisoner held for five years.