The Washington Post

White House notifies Congress of prisoner transfer 30 days late


Freed American soldier Bowe Bergdahl's mother Jani Bergdahl (L) speeks to the press while his father Bob Bergdahl (C) and US President Barack Obama look on in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 31, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House formally notified Capitol Hill around noon Monday of the transfers of five Taliban commanders from the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, more than 30 days after such notification is required by law.

One GOP congressional aide, speaking on a condition of anonymity because the notification document is classified, said that congressional critics of the move are far from satisfied. “It did not mitigate the concerns we have about recidivism, nor did it satisfy the requirement of the 2014 Defense Authorization Act,” that such notice be given 30 days in advance.

The United States freed the five Taliban prisoners in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was recovered Saturday by a U.S. Special Operations team in Afghanistan after weeks of intense negotiations in which U.S. officials, working through the government of Qatar, negotiated the swap.

The news was hailed by President Obama on Saturday as a sign of Washington’s “ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home.” But the reaction from current and former U.S. service members was decidedly more mixed. Some said that although they were glad to see Bergdahl freed, he needs to be held accountable for his choices.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to reporters Sunday in Bagram, Afghanistan, declined to talk about any possible action by the military against Bergdahl. A senior defense official indicated that punitive action was unlikely, no matter what the circumstances were. “Five years is enough,” he said.

Current and former service members also questioned whether the United States should have released five members of the Taliban in exchange for Bergdahl. Former Sgt. Aaron King, who deployed to Iraq twice as part of the 101st Airborne Division, said that Washington needed to try to recover Bergdahl but that U.S. troops join the military knowing that they could be kidnapped. He also said that troops accept that although their fellow service members will search for them, they are not to be used in negotiations.

 

 

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.

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