Unintended Consequence of the Bergdahl Swap

Bergdahl Prisoner SwapYesterday, I made a post on my thoughts regarding Sergeant Bergdahl.  I focused primarily on the issues regarding his service and the investigation of his actions during his deployment, and the findings that are supposedly coming.  The other side of this, the five Gitmo detainees exchanged for his release, has now come to the forefront, and again, not in a good way for the Administration.

When all this went down late last summer, I, like so many others, was very skeptical of the entire deal.  I certainly was in favor of rescuing Sergeant Bergdahl from the terrorists, but I did not expect the administration to take this kind of action. My first reaction was these detainees are top level “generals” that have experience in orchestrating and planning attacks and recruiting others to the cause.  Surely, they would make every effort to going back into duty with former associates.

Their release, despite their one year “imprisonment” in Quatar, was not a good thing.  In fact, a former defense official said that these individuals would not pose any risk and after their time in Qatar, they would not be going back to their organizations.  This despite that facts on recidivism is over 80% of Gitmo detainees released.

Now we learn that one of the released has been communicating with the Taliban, something that Administration officials downplayed, but raised the ire of critics as an “I told you so!” moment.  This would not be the first time the Administration has had to alter the narrative for failing to foresee the obvious.  Just what kinds of discussions go on in that room of advisers where this doesn’t come up?

In an interesting twist, the Administration has also modified the designation of the Taliban from “Terrorist Organization” to “Armed Insurgents”.  In Josh Ernst’s long rebuttal of ABC’s Jonathan Karl’s question “Is the Taliban a terrorist organization or not?”, Ernst went through a long oration about the differences between the Taliban and Al Quaeda, and yet failed to actually say, “No.”

The State Department has three criteria for an organization to meet the requirements of the terrorist designation under US Law:

Legal Criteria for Designation under Section 219 of the INA as amended

  1. It must be a foreign organization.
  2. The organization must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(3)(B)),* or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2)),** or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
  3. The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.

Taliban is obviously foreign.  Ernst’s non-answer to the question showed that indeed, the Taliban had satisfied the requirement in item two.  The Taliban have stated over and over that the United States and Israel must both be destroyed and has made attacks against US troops.  Seems to me this would be an easy call.

The Administration has chosen, instead, to not follow the law (again), and my guess is that to admit the Taliban is a terrorist organization would undermine their credibility because of the Bergdahl prisoner swap.

Kinda makes you wonder if policy is genuinely in the interest of the US, or perhaps the personal preferences of the Administration or the President.

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