The five senior Taliban Commanders released from Guantanamo (GITMO) in exchange for the return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are set to be freed from their “luxurious” confinement in Qatar effective June 1. These five hard-core terrorists are Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammend Nabi Omari. They were classified as some of the most dangerous Taliban commanders held at GITMO, according to Thomas Joscelyn of The Long War Journal.
There is little doubt that these five Taliban commanders will return to the Afghanistan battlefield. The real issue that should not be overlooked is why these five hardcore terrorists were traded for the return of Bergdahl, a deserter, according to his platoon mates. Bergdahl left his guard post and walked away from his base in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He took off his body armor and left his weapon behind.
An AP report of March 2, 2014, states that Bergdahl willingly walked away from his post while deployed in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The article further refers to a Rolling Stone article that quoted e-mails from Bergdahl to his parents saying that he was disillusioned and had lost faith in the US Army mission, and that he was considering desertion. He told his parents that he was “ashamed to even be American.” Prior to deserting his position, he mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books. The AP could not verify the e-mails.
By these deliberate actions it can be concluded that Bergdahl’s intentions were clearly to desert. Furthermore, these well considered actions by Bergdahl debunk the story that he was captured while sitting in a makeshift latrine without his weapon. There is no way he should have been considered a legitimate P.O.W. In fact, the U.S. Army recently announced a decision to file desertion charges against Bergdahl.
Catherine Herridge of Fox News states in an April 17, 2015 article that six months after Bergdahl’s desertion in November 2009, according to three of Bergdahl’s platoon mates, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, knew the specific details of his desertion according to three of Bergdahl’s platoon mates. Sgt. Matt Vierkani told Fox News that he “asked him (Mullen) during his visit to Afghanistan, if he knew about Bergdahl’s desertion and he (Mullen) told me that he knew of their circumstances surrounding his walking off, and that they were developing leads and following leads, trying to do everything they could to get him back.” Sgt. Vierkani’s account of his conversation with Admiral Mullen was confirmed by Evan Brietow and Cody Full, two of Bergdahl’s platoon mates who were present during the discussion.
Vierkani was asked if there was any ambiguity based on his conversation with Mullen and he said “No.” “Without a doubt, he (Mullen) knew he (Bergdahl) deserted.” This is important because as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen had to report the facts surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance to the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) and most likely to the President. Why then would President Obama go ahead with the release of five hardcore Taliban commanders in exchange for the return of someone who deliberately left his post with apparently no intention of returning? Was his political agenda to close GITMO so overriding that he was willing to release these terrorists to further threaten our military forces in Afghanistan? Unconscionable!
Fox News has extended an open invitation to Admiral Mullen to explain his recollection of events during his December 2009 trip to Afghanistan and whether or not he briefed the SecDef and the President or his senior advisors about the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance. In a previous statement to Fox News, Admiral Mullen said, “From the moment Sgt. Bergdahl went missing, the U.S. military was focused on finding him – as it does with any serviceman or woman who goes missing. The exact circumstances were not known then, nor did they drive our decision. We do not leave our people behind.” Hopefully, the Hillary Clinton disease of “selective recall” will not affect Admiral Mullen’s response.
My own view is that we should have left Bergdahl to his own demise at the hands of the seventh century mentality held by the Taliban he was so eager to join. The code “that we leave no one behind” should not have applied in Bergdahl’s case, since he was the one who chose to leave his platoon mates behind. Clearly, it is a travesty that the five Taliban commanders are being freed to further harm our remaining forces in Afghanistan.
Following the same principle, our homegrown jihadists who want to join ISIS and al-Qaeda should not be prevented from leaving this great country. In fact, they should be encouraged, with the stipulation that they will never be allowed to return, and their U.S. citizenship will be revoked.
James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired Admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.