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Prisoner swap for Bergdahl’s release alarms some critics in Washington

June 1, 2014 at 4:20 PM EDT
Critics weighed in on the Sunday morning talk shows about potential foreign policy ramifications of the prisoner exchange with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Adam Entous of the Wall Street Journal joins Hari Sreenivasan to take a closer look at the administration's decision.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Returning now to the release of Bowe Bergdahl, we are joined from Washington D.C. by Adam Entis who has been covering the story for the Wall Street Journal.

So, let’s talk about some of those critiques that you saw on the Sunday morning talk shows. You had Senator McCain and lots of others wondering what sort of assurance do we have that these five individuals we’ve traded for Bowe Bergdahl don’t go back on the battlefield against us in the future?

ADAM ENTOUS: Well this was a big effort on the part of the US negotiating team in the months leading up to this transfer and exchange where they were working out with the government of Qatar and with the Emir directly to try to get these assurances. Which, according to officials, includes a one-year travel ban for the five detainees that have now gone to Qatar, where they will be monitored by Qartar security forces, but also I’m sure by the National Security Agency of the United States to make sure that they don’t start communicating tactically with the Taliban in the field.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Some members of Congress have also been concerned that this essentially puts a big, bold bullseye on the back of every American solider, knowing that essentially we’ve created almost a currency — that one American solider is worth five high-value targets or high-value prisoners that we already have.

ADAM ENTOUS: American officials who defend this exchange point out that Obama has set a policy of trying to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, anyway. So, at least down the road there was this intent anyway to transfer them at some point. There’s definitely an argument to be made that this exchange puts – gives a boost to the Taliban just at a time when the US is winding down its forces there.

But at the same time, I think for American officials this was a something of a test of concept that they could negotiate something very complex with Taliban negotiators.

And according to the negotiator’s American side that I’ve spoken to – they were rather impressed by the straightforwardness of the Taliban negotiating team and the command and control that they were able to exercise to carry out this very complex, highly-choreographed exchange.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So is this something that could happen in the future? What’s the diplomatic endgame?

ADAM ENTOUS: This could be a one-of, certainly, it’s unclear where this leads and the Taliban were very clear to say to the Americans through their Qatari intermediaries that these negotiations were only about Bergdahl and the five detainees.

That said, for the American side at least, there’s sort of a sense of potential hope that there might be common ground that could be used going forward, now that the Americans see that there’s a partner on the other side that they can at least have a conversation with and that could be expanded down the road if there’s a broader effort to try to reconcile in Afghanistan.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Adam Entous of the Wall Street Journal joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

ADAM ENTOUS: Thank you.