Earlier this month, the Obama administration exchanged five senior Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay for Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. solider held captive by the Taliban since 2009. As a veteran, I appreciate the long tradition of bringing American soldiers home from captivity, but I strongly disagree with this exchange.
First, I was deeply troubled by both the administration’s failure to notify Congress of the exchange — as required by law. A provision of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act laid out clear, specific requirements that must be met for a prisoner exchange to occur, including a 30-day Congressional notification. President Obama is aware of this requirement, yet he chose to ignore it. This action illustrates not only the President’s blatant disregard for Congress as a co-equal branch of government but also for duly enacted legislation.
More troubling, this prisoner release threatens our national security and makes the United States less safe. Nearly one in three of the detainees released from Guantanamo Bay re-engage in terrorist activities. Just last week, Spanish authorities arrested eight men in Madrid suspected of recruiting militants for the Islamist group ISIL — the group now terrorizing Iraq. The main leader of this recruitment cell came to Spain after his release from Guantanamo Bay. I fear this prisoner exchange will have a similar result. According to our own military, the five men released in exchange for Pvt. Bergdahl were all classified as a “high risk” of returning to the Taliban and terrorist activities.
That is why this week I offered an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill prohibiting funds from being used to transfer any Guantanamo Bay detainee to their country of origin, or any other country for one year. Doing so not only reasserts Congress’s role in our government, but also provides us with the opportunity to see if the conditions of this prisoner release are adequate to support the release of such hardened terrorist commanders before we do so again. I was pleased this amendment passed the House with bipartisan support and was included in the final bill.
I was a captain in the United States Army in Laghman Province when Pvt. Bergdahl disappeared. Like all soldiers, I lived by the warrior ethos that we do not leave a fallen comrade behind, no matter the circumstances. But I joined the Army after the terror attacks of Sept. 11th to defend our freedom, and I have concerns about the circumstances of Pvt. Bergdahl’s disappearance. National security is of paramount importance and President Obama has gravely jeopardized our troops and our interests with this heedless release of terrorists.