Hagel: This prisoner swap might produce peace negotiations with the Taliban

posted at 11:01 am on June 1, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Members of Congress erupted in outrage over the prisoner swap that traded five high-ranking Taliban officials from GITMO for American POW Bowe Bergdahl, the only US soldier known to be held by the Taliban. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the decision to make the swap, arguing that Bergdahl’s life was in imminent danger and that the President has the exclusive authority to act in regard to prisoners captured in wartime.

We’ll get back to that point in a moment, but Hagel also argued that this trade could produce negotiations long sought by the US to end the civil war in Afghanistan:

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed hope Sunday the release of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl would lead to direct US talks with the Taliban.

“It could, it might and we hope it will present an opening,” Hagel said in an interview from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Hagel noted that the United States had engaged in talks with the Taliban before, until they were broken off in 2012, and that it strongly supported an Afghan-led effort to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban.

“So maybe this will be a new opening that can produce an agreement,” he said.

There has been an avalanche of criticism over the release of these five GITMO detainees, who are the highest of  high-value Taliban operatives. The criticism misses a larger point, though, which is that they were going to get released sooner or later anyway. Their detention hinges on our participation in the Afghan civil war. Unlike the al-Qaeda operatives still in GITMO, there aren’t any other grounds on which to hold them. When we end combat operations in Afghanistan this year, and especially when we fully withdraw in 2016, any justification for continuing to hold them indefinitely evaporates along with our presence. At the very least, we’d have to return them to the custody of the Afghan government, which would probably release them for their own purposes, and Bergdahl would probably not have been one of them.

The fight in Afghanistan is a real civil war, and has been ever since the end of the Soviet occupation. It’s even more a tribal war, with the Pashtuns against the other tribes in Afghanistan. This isn’t the same dynamic as the broader war on terror, where AQ is a small but dangerous network of terrorists. The Taliban are part of the native Afghan mix, and the Pashtuns haven’t given up on loyalty to them. In order to end the civil war in Afghanistan, the Taliban have to eventually become a negotiating party at those talks. As despicable as these detainees are in American eyes, eventually they will become Afghanistan’s problem, and not ours — unless we want to continue to make war in Afghanistan for another decade or more, only to come to the same result, at least in the sense that this tribal/civil war will only end through integration of tribal systems and negotiated end to tribal disputes.

On the point of authority to execute this swap, though, Hagel and the Obama administration get pretty cynical:

Speaking to reporters aboard his aircraft en route to Bagram, Hagel rejected charges by some Republican lawmakers that the exchange of Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo prison had violated congressional requirements for advance notification on detainee transfers. He said that President Obama had used his executive power under the Constitution.

“We believe that the President of the United States, as commander in chief, has the power and authority to make the decision that he did under Article II of the Constitution,” Hagel said. Obama has hesitated at times to assert his executive power without seeking congressional approval.

If that sounds familiar, it should. George W. Bush used the same argument to defend the establishment of GITMO in the first place, along with the indefinite detention of people like the Taliban 5 that just got traded and the military commissions to try al-Qaeda terrorists at GITMO. Politicians like Barack Obama insisted that Bush didn’t have this authority, and pressed the courts to interfere with his administration’s attempts to try the terrorists, with enough success that we still haven’t tried Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 conspirators. Obama tried pushing the whole thing into the federal court system by arguing that the executive branch (including the military) should not have the final authority on matters concerning the detainees, although the White House ended up backing away from that political argument in the end.

Ironic or not, the authority to trade prisoners in wartime still belongs to the executive branch. The only reason Congress believes they have a say is because Obama and his allies demanded it before Obama became President.


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taqiyya

Hammie on June 1, 2014 at 5:55 PM

“Scam-wow”!!

http://a.disquscdn.com/uploads/mediaembed/images/1061/9105/original.jpg

lynncgb on June 1, 2014 at 5:17 PM

NOPE. TREASON!

Hammie on June 1, 2014 at 5:58 PM

The Taliban will always be interested in accepting the surrender of Obama and Hagel. They know two fools BROTHERS when they see them.
leader4hru on June 1, 2014 at 5:51 PM

FIFY

LegendHasIt on June 1, 2014 at 5:59 PM

Everyone was spun up to find this guy. News outlets all over the country were putting out false information. It was hard to see, especially when we knew the truth about what happened and we lost good men trying to find him. PFC Matthew Michael Martinek, Staff Sgt. Kurt Robert Curtiss, SSG Clayton Bowen, PFC Morris Walker, SSG Michael Murphrey, 2LT Darryn Andrews, were all KIA from our unit who died looking for Bergdahl. Many others from various units were wounded or killed while actively looking for Bergdahl. Fighting Increased. IEDs and enemy ambushes increased. The Taliban knew that we were looking for him in high numbers and our movements were predictable. Because of Bergdahl, more men were out in danger, and more attacks on friendly camps and positions were conducted while we were out looking for him. His actions impacted the region more than anyone wants to admit. There is also no way to know what he told the Taliban: Our movements, locations, tactics, weak points on vehicles and other things for the enemy to exploit are just a few possibilities. The Government knows full well that he deserted. It looks bad and is a good propaganda piece for the Taliban. They refuse to acknowledge it. Hell they even promoted him to Sergeant which makes me sick.

http://americanpowerblog.blogspot.com/2014/06/us-special-forces-back-channel-account.html#.U4tg9Rogz_E.twitter

davidk on June 1, 2014 at 6:33 PM

44 seconds of breathtaking common sense from our dead 40th President.

http://www.westernjournalism.com/flashback-ronald-reagan-defines-fascism-44-seconds/

PappyD61 on June 1, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Ed,
Please correct me but aren’t two of these “Taliban 5″ wanted by the United Nations for war crimes?
I’m not understanding why these cretins would have to be set free at all.
Am I incorrect in thinking that these 5 could have been tried through military tribunal (once hopefully resumed in 2016)for their terrorist acts and sentenced accordingly?

B4B on June 1, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Who didn’t see this coming?

Unexpectedly! Afghans say Taliban prisoners freed by U.S. will rejoin battle

http://news.yahoo.com/afghans-taliban-prisoners-freed-u-rejoin-battle-145123619.html?soc_src=mediacontentsharebuttons

idesign on June 1, 2014 at 7:04 PM

What I really think would be interesting is if Bergdahl became disillusioned with the Army with less than half his 12 month deployment under his belt, how did the poor mistreated Afghans hold up after five years of up close and personal contact?

Cindy Munford on June 1, 2014 at 7:17 PM

“This is purely a negotiation between the Taliban and the Americans… It won’t help the peace process in any way, because we don’t believe in the peace process,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Earth to Hagel come in Hagel….Maybe read that yahoo article idesign posted you buffoon

sadsushi on June 1, 2014 at 7:32 PM

This all makes me think of this classic by one Loudon Wainwright III:

Crossin’ the highway late last night
He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right
He didn’t see the station wagon car
The skunk got squashed and there you are!

You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high Heaven!

Take a whiff on me, that ain’t no rose!
Roll up yer window and hold yer nose
You don’t have to look and you don’t have to see
‘Cause you can feel it in your olfactory

You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high Heaven!

Yeah you got yer dead cat and you got yer dead dog
On a moonlight night you got yer dead toad frog
Got yer dead rabbit and yer dead raccoon
The blood and the guts they’re gonna make you swoon!

You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high Heaven!

C’mon stink!
You got it!
It’s dead, it’s in the middle
Dead skunk in the middle!
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high heaven!
All over the road, technicolor man!
Oh, you got pollution
It’s dead, it’s in the middle
And it’s stinkin’ to high, high Heaven!

bimmcorp on June 1, 2014 at 7:48 PM

the nda issue for servicemembers leaving country is interesting.
when I rotated out of germany I had to sign ndas due to nuke security.
wondering if someone tried to slip this issue into what may otherwise be a normal nda upon rotation.

dmacleo on June 1, 2014 at 7:50 PM

The Taliban was providing protection and training camps for AlQaeda in Afghanistan. What kind of idiocy is guiding the Obysmal foreign policy?

Mullah Omar thinks that the exchange if just peachy BTW.
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/06/mullah_omar_hails_re.php#

onlineanalyst on June 1, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Obama has improved things for his Taliban friends so much they’re now calling us:

The Not So Great Satan….

viking01 on June 1, 2014 at 8:01 PM

davidk on June 1, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Well, I am a middle aged veteran, so not young physically.

I’m not afraid of the Obama Youth or whoever he supposedly will send out to load us onto railcars and looking for you guys to buck up a little. Not meaning to offend or call anyone out. I just want you guys to realize Ogabe is a paper tiger.

8 weight on June 1, 2014 at 8:23 PM

“It could, it might and we hope it will present an opening,” Hagel said…

So American foreign policy is now based on an old 2008 “Obama for President” poster…

jbspry on June 1, 2014 at 8:40 PM

jimver on June 1, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Meh. I’m a screwed-up hippie from the 60s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQd65utTnAQ

davidk on June 1, 2014 at 4:02 PM

:) cool

jimver on June 1, 2014 at 8:42 PM

Ed,
Please correct me but aren’t two of these “Taliban 5″ wanted by the United Nations for war crimes?
I’m not understanding why these cretins would have to be set free at all.
Am I incorrect in thinking that these 5 could have been tried through military tribunal (once hopefully resumed in 2016)for their terrorist acts and sentenced accordingly?

B4B on June 1, 2014 at 6:54 PM

This is the point RWM raised earlier in the thread. Everybody’s wondering…

jimver on June 1, 2014 at 8:44 PM

You dont make peace with barbarians whose only purpose in life is to kill you. You annihilate them to the point that they cry uncle. You destroy the support networks AND you kill their civilian population until they cry uncle. It worked for Sherman, Lemay, and ‘Bomber’ Harris.

jaywemm on June 1, 2014 at 8:46 PM

Sheesh, our military is run by an idiot.

sadatoni on June 1, 2014 at 9:31 PM

SOD Hagel, with all due respect for the office…what the heck are you smoking?

evie1949 on June 1, 2014 at 9:54 PM

Although there is some question about whether this Administration can do anything right, reading that
“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the decision to make the swap, arguing that Bergdahl’s life was in imminent danger,” could mean they faced another scandal if they sat still.

The fact that the Admin blew the cover of a CIA operative may have actually made this a possibility. I wonder how many other lives have been endangered…like the poor Afgani who risked siding with the U.S.

momsaysso on June 1, 2014 at 11:52 PM

Hagel is a complete imbecile. But I might respect him if he will surrender himself to the taliban.

Sherman1864 on June 2, 2014 at 3:25 AM

davidk on June 1, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Well, I am a middle aged veteran, so not young physically.

I’m not afraid of the Obama Youth or whoever he supposedly will send out to load us onto railcars and looking for you guys to buck up a little. Not meaning to offend or call anyone out. I just want you guys to realize Ogabe is a paper tiger.

8 weight on June 1, 2014 at 8:23 PM

Fair enough.

But I think obama is a sock puppet. And there are enough gung ho “Brown Shirt” types that are sadistic enough to cause us patriots serious grief. Like the Solzhenitsyn quotes Murph cited, where do we draw the line.

Will we be like the proverbial frog being boiled to death and wake up one day on the trains? I am holding out hope that there are more of us than them; that we are more powerful than them; and that we love freedom than they love power.

The question, again, and many have asked this here on Hot Air, Where is our Red Line?

davidk on June 2, 2014 at 5:09 AM

We continue to have leadership that ignores the doctrine of Islam. Their play book has been out there for 1400 years, it hasn’t changed and in fact can not change.

The fundamental question that needs to be asked in every situation is What Would Mohammed Do? How do we know what Mohammed would do? The Hadith and Sura are Mo’s biographies. The Koran is whatever Mo said was revealed to him from the angel Gabriel. We know more about the personal habits of Mohammed than we know about Lincoln.

To a Muslim Mohammed is the Perfect Man.

Would Mohammed:

Rape
Murder
Deceive
Rob
Enslave
Torture
Ransom prisoners

Now ask your self would Mo:
Allow a church to be built
Allow a Muslim to leave the faith
Treat other faiths as equals to Islam

jpmn on June 2, 2014 at 5:55 AM

Obama just let the worst Terrorist LEADERS we had in Guantanamo walk. Some of these guys were/are wanted by the U.N. for WAR CRIMES. After a year in Qatar they will be freed and will rejoin the Taliban as HEROES. Obama also BROME THE LAW by failing to notify Congress of the release of these prisoners in the appropriate amount of time before the release occurred. In exchange for these valuable Terrorist Leaders, America got back a DESERTER, an Anti-American, hate-spewing, Islamic Extremist-Convert.

Obama’s Islamic Extremist Sympathizing and aiding and abetting of America’s enemies continues, proving Obama is an ‘Enemy of the State’.

easyt65 on June 2, 2014 at 7:28 AM

Yeah, I’d expect negotiations with the Taliban, will go about as well as the negotiations with Iran, have gone.

kjatexas on June 2, 2014 at 9:21 AM

This guy is in fantasyland. The only negotiations with the Taliban will be when they start kidnapping more people to fund the murder of innocents.

jake49 on June 2, 2014 at 9:31 AM

“It could, it might and we hope it will present an opening,” Hagel said…

Hope is not a plan.

GWB on June 2, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Was the Afghan CIA station chief outed last week because he refused to go along with the terrorist leaders for deserter trade?

Wallythedog on June 2, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Was the Afghan CIA station chief outed last week because he refused to go along with the terrorist leaders for deserter trade?

Wallythedog on June 2, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Oooooh, good question…….

GWB on June 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Does everybody in this administration smoke crack?

newpine on June 2, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Why don’t we just hand over….say….. 1/2 of our GDP… say…. forever, to the – terrorist leaders – maybe they will play nice with us then. — YOU DON”T NEGOIATE WITH TERRORIST. –

nonstopca on June 2, 2014 at 12:18 PM

How effin stupid are you?

rjoco1 on June 2, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Iam sorry, but when we have a DOD Secretary named Haggle (Hagel) no wonder our enemies feel they can haggle prisoner deals, weapon sales, or anything to do with defending U.S. against evil.

MSGTAS on June 3, 2014 at 9:13 AM

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