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June 6, 2014

Illegal Rearming The Enemy

Joe Charlebois

This week five of the world’s most dangerous men were released from U.S. custody into the celebratory arms of family and friends in Qatar. Even with assurances from of Qatar that they will honor a one year travel ban for the five released Taliban, these key members of the Taliban leadership will be free to set up their networks and contacts again.


No matter how the president spins this, Americans will die due to his action.


The history of the swap dates back to talks between the president and leaders of Congress in late November 2011. In January 2012, the potential swap idea was presented to Republican House leaders. It has been reported that since that January meeting more than two years ago no other mention of a potential swap was made until the deal to trade the five Taliban detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl happened this past week.


Legal experts across the political spectrum are pointing out the fact that the White House has clearly broken the law. The law in question is The National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA 2014).


This legislation was signed into law October 22, 2013, by President Barack Obama. Under Sec. 1035 of the law, it states:


“Secretary of Defense is authorized to transfer or release any individual detained at Guantanamo to the individual’s country of origin, or any other foreign country, if – … \the individual is no longer a threat to the national security of the United States.”


It also states that plans need to be put in place to “mitigate the risk of such individuals engaging or reengaging in any terrorist or other hostile activity that threatens the United States…” This would include being granted assurances from the accepting nation that they will take those actions to mitigate the risk. It also requires the accepting nation “maintain control over any facility at which the individual is to be detained.” Of course, the White House sidestepped subsection “(d)” which requires the Secretary of Defense to notify the appropriations committees of Congress “no later than 30 days before the transfer or release of the individual…”


If clearly breaking the law weren’t bad enough, the men involved in the swap for Sgt. Bergdahl are a threat to the United States. Of the five Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, who was the Taliban army chief of staff, is wanted for possible war crimes by the United Nations (UN).


The second of the five is Mullah Norullah Noori, who was a senior Taliban military commander. He is also wanted by the UN for possible war crimes. Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s deputy minister of intelligence worked with al Qaeda prior the attacks of September 11, 2001. Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former interior minister and governor of one of Afghanistan’s western provinces, worked with Iran to gain support for Taliban missions. The last of the five is Mohammed Nabi, who was a senior member of the Taliban with ties to al Qaeda.


In making his assessment, the president states that this swap was in the best interest of America. He was able to bring home a “POW” to his family in what I’m sure he thought would be the “feel good” story of the year. He and his staff seriously miscalculated.


It is reported that the White House expected blowback on negotiations with the Taliban; however, they never counted on the fact that underlying story of Sgt. Bergdahl’s hatred for the Army and the country he served being revealed. There may be forthcoming charges leveled against Sgt. Bergdahl related to his voluntarily leaving of the Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan.


Regrettably even if this trade was sanctioned by all involved, it was one made on the terms of the Taliban. It means that in the future fight against terrorists an American becomes even more valuable in the hands of a ruthless enemy. It will mean that American military and civilians will be even less safe. The safety of our allies’ civilian population will be at even greater risk. Women’s rights will disappear.


This dangerous political gambit the president made is just the latest in a line of serious mistakes made by an inept and naïve administration. The folly in believing that through misguided acts of faith, such as the return of five Taliban leaders, will in some way buy protection from further terrorist acts is both foolish and dangerous.


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