Editorial: Freeing Bergdahl the right move
For five years, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had the distinction of being the last American held as a prisoner of war by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Given the war’s length and the weariness that Americans now feel about our military involvement there, we wouldn’t be surprised if Bergdahl had slipped from the consciousness of much of the public.
President Barack Obama hadn’t forgotten, though. And the American public should be thankful for that ... even though there are some questions about the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture.
The administration has completed an exchange of prisoners that freed Bergdahl in return for the release of five Taliban detainees from Guantanomo.
While we can debate just how important these prisoners are and what kind of the threat they may still pose to United States interests, like Bergdahl, they won’t be forgotten.
As part of the agreement, the five detainees won’t be back on Afghanistan soil for another year. Instead they will be in Qatar, where government officials vow their movements will be restricted. We also suspect that Qatar won’t be the only one keeping tabs on what these five do, especially if, as critics of the deal say, these five detainees are so dangerous.
Adding another ripple to this story were the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture. Since the deal was announced, there have been plenty of reports that the soldier from rural Idaho was so disillusioned with the war that he deserted.
What actually happened — and what Bergdahl’s responsibility for those events are — has yet to be determined. He certainly faces an official inquiry and the military will undoubtedly look into possible charges.
But, deserter or not, we should not forget that he has been held as a POW under harsh conditions by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was used in propaganda videos and we have no way of knowing whether this was done willingly or under duress and whether the sergeant was tortured during his captivity.
It’s also possible that he might be an invaluable source for inside information on the workings of the Taliban.
We can’t imagine what kind of physical and psychological damage Bergdahl suffered. We think it’s safe to say that he comes back a changed man. War does that to those who experience it firsthand.
But just as we expect those fighting to shoulder this burden, the nation has to be responsible and accountable when it comes to bringing our soldiers home.
“Regardless of circumstances ... we still get an American prisoner back,” Obama said the other day. “Period, full stop — we don’t condition that.”
This exchange was the right thing to do, especially with a war that is finally coming to an end.