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March 27, 2015

The Price of Blood

Joe Charlebois

Bringing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl back was the right thing to do, or so says retired USAF Gen. Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. In a op-ed General Dunlap states that “The decision to bring him home — even at the price of freeing enemy detainees — was still the right one, as was yesterday’s decision to task the military justice process with determining his guilt or innocence.”

General Dunlap has it half right. Bringing Sergeant Bergdahl home was the right thing to do. At the time of the detainee swap for him there had been no charges filed against him, and there was just growing evidence from his fellow soldiers as to what his actions were and what his intentions were when he left his post. Prior to his release by the Taliban, it was reported that Sergeant Bergdahl voluntarily left his post, searched out Taliban fighters and was then subsequently held captive for five years by the very people he sought out.

Now Sergeant Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy – a more serious charge under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Where General Dunlap is wrong is in his assessment that the high cost that the U.S. – and its partners in the war against terror – had to pay for Sergeant Bergdahl’s release was worth it.

General Dunlap almost seems dismissive to the potential harm that the release of these five detainees may have on the future of terroristic threats to the innocents as well as to the West.

The detainees, which were being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, were still in Guantanamo after years of detention due to their high value as strategic leaders. Their value was even higher once you realize that there were certainly American lives given in the capture of these men. In my June 6, 2014, article, I detailed the illegal actions of the Obama Administration in releasing these five detainees and descriptions of their importance to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The five released included Mullah Mohammad Fazl, who was the Taliban army chief of staff, and was wanted for possible war crimes by the United Nations (UN). The second was 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 was Mohammed Nabi, who was a senior member of the Taliban with ties to al Qaeda

The price paid by their release is yet to be fully realized. America and its partners have already paid dearly for their capture once. What will it cost the second time around?

Others who paid the ultimate price did so once Sergeant Bergdahl went missing. According to those in his unit, they were forced into a constant state of readiness to search for him. This created a constant distraction from the unit’s mission. To compound the situation, the camp was located in what was considered a “hotbed” of insurgent activity. Claims by some members of Bergdahl’s former unit have even blamed him either directly or indirectly for loss of several men’s lives.

What can’t be denied is the fact that several of his fellow soldiers, who were still committed to the fight, won’t ever return home to their families. In a sick ironic twist, the administration’s decision to do a “prisoner swap” for Sergeant Bergdahl allowed him to return home to his family while those who stayed and fought won’t.

The return of Sergeant Bergdahl was celebrated by many as a sterling example of never leaving a man behind. In reality, the United States never left Sergeant Bergdahl behind. He left the U.S. behind – reaching out to the enemy.


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