Opinion: On the Bergdahl Prisoner Swap

Matthew Binder

The Obama Administration has recently come under flak for a recent prisoner exchange. The prisoner exchange, which exchanged Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five high ranking Taliban officers held at Guantanamo Bay is unpopular among many within the United States. However, I opine that the prisoner exchange was in the best interests of Sgt. Bergdahl and of the United States.

Why are many unhappy with the prisoner exchange? Congress criticizes the White House for not giving it the thirty days notice before removing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay; the White House later apologized to Congress, though defended its actions because Sgt. Bergdahl’s health was at risk, making it crucial that a deal be struck as quickly as possible.

Soldiers from his platoon claim that he is a deserter who walked away from his base unarmed, whose actions cost six American lives in the subsequent operations to find him.

Hard liners, such as John McCain, believe that the White House should have pushed for a harder trade, calling the swap of an American deserter for “five of the worlds biggest murderers in history” outrageous.

Others believe that releasing one American for five Taliban gives terrorists an incentive to kidnap more Americans

Despite the controversy, I strongly support the White House’s right to trade Bergdahl.

The first and foremost reason is practicality. The five prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay were there because of the war in Afghanistan, not the larger war on Terrorism. For that reason, the United States, by law, cannot hold prisoners of war after engagements have ceased; the five prisoners would have been released at around 2016. Why not use them now to advantage when they would be released in a couple years anyway?

The prisoner swap keeps America true to its rhetoric that no soldier gets left behind. Bergdahl, even if proved to have been a deserter, he is still an American, and as an American, the government is expected to do everything in their power to return him to America.

Despite the White House saying that negotiating with terrorists is off the table, the prisoner exchange represents a breakthrough in negotiations with the Taliban. While some see this as a negative, I suggest that it as a positive.

With the war in Afghanistan winding down, the United States is now going to be playing a backseat role in Afghanistan. If there is ever going to be peace in that turbulent country, it will not be achieved, as America found out in the past thirteen years, through war, but through diplomacy. The prisoner exchange represents a step in the right direction.