Tuesday, June 3, 2014


The American administration has freed five senior Taliban leaders for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  The priority "to leave no soldier behind" was, by doing so, "honored."  The release was negotiated without the knowledge of Congress or the Afghans but few tears will be shed over the bruised egos in Washington or Kabul, who were left in the dark.  More issues are at stake.

The circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl's capture are murky as are the contradictory motives which are attributed to his leaving his post in eastern Afghanistan.  His debriefing should help bring more evidence into this, for the time being, mostly negative scenario.  For now it looks more as if somebody of little interest was exchanged for five major members of the Taliban "brain trust."
This risks being seen as a slap in the face of the military, NATO allies and Afghans who must all feel cheated.  The sergeant will have to face up to the consequences of his actions five years ago, which are in dispute. The administration will be accountable for an initiative which might be construed as giving the 5 Major League Taliban a one-year holiday voucher for a stay in some Qatari Lego land  (nice neighbors for the major US base in the Gulf!) , while regrouping.

President Obama's embrace of the sergeant's parents looked premature more "American Gothic", than "closure".  His European trip is overshadowed by this contrived spectacle which may come back to haunt him.  Indirectly he gave Putin, yet again, a Snowden-type moment which will distract and make the US administration look reckless. He has promised, rightly so, to close Guantanamo. He appears to have resorted now to a "drip by drip" alternative instead, letting inmates go when there is an opportunity, without due process, cela va sans dire. 

Now the Taliban evil doers have their day, while the sergeant will come home to more cold shoulders than applause.  It is hard to understand what the added-value of this absolutely uneven deal might be.  While it fulfills a duty to remain responsible for all soldiers in harm's way, it has the potential of becoming politically bankrupt, given its grotesque unbalanced components.  The President in Europe might feel uncomfortable this week, remembering the American heroes of Normandy and having nothing to show for them other than what might become an existential and morally costly mistake.

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