Asked about the backlash to the trade of the Taliban’s Fab Five for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, President Obama said, “I’m never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington, all right?” In those few words, Obama made it clear that we need an American ambassador to the White House. Though the president denies it, the swap will significantly damage our national security.
The president isn’t tone deaf: he just doesn’t give a damn what the military (who advised against the swap) or the American people think. In one action, he has materially strengthened the Taliban’s ability to attack America and retake Afghanistan. The president demonstrated his concern for the severe consequences that will follow his action by chewing gum at a D-Day remembrance.
The trade of five top Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a huge boon to the enemy. And not just the Taliban. Our enemies — including al Qaeda (with which the Five are closely tied), as well as any terrorist network that can manage to kidnap an American — are celebrating. And why shouldn’t they?
Obama’s swap, in the words of a Taliban commander, gives the group a legitimacy it never had before. Which is probably one of Obama’s intentions. Defense Secretary Sgt. Chuck Hagel said of the release of the Fab Five, “It could, it might and we hope it will present an opening” for further peace negotiations with the Taliban.
If the Taliban can be regarded as a peer in negotiations with the United States, they have the standing of a legitimate nation-state. When they apply, we should expect Obama to help sponsor their membership in the United Nations.
This is the Taliban brain trust that enabled them to conquer Afghanistan and turn it into the biggest terrorist sanctuary outside of Iran. There is no reason to believe they won’t do the same again. These are men who should never have been allowed to return alive to again threaten America and its allies. The swap of these men for an American soldier who is apparently a deserter is unjustifiable in any terms. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said, there was no credible threat to Bergdahl’s life. Yes, we cannot leave any soldier behind, but we’re not leaving for another year and a half. The narrative the Obama team was trying to sell was brazenly and knowingly false.
Obama sent his national security adviser, Susan Rice — she of the infamous talking points that insisted the 9-11-2012 attacks on Benghazi were caused by an obscure video — out yet again to defend the administration’s indefensible narrative that Bowe Bergdahl was a soldier who had served with distinction. This despite the 2012 Army investigation of his conduct that found “incontrovertible” evidence that he was a deserter. And despite the 2012 Rolling Stone magazine report that confirmed the facts surrounding Bergdahl’s apparent desertion.
If Susan Rice went on television to announce that the world was about to be destroyed by a massive meteor, I’d go out and buy long-term municipal bonds. The woman is either a pathological liar or extremely stupid. Hillary, having won liberal hearts all over with her line on Benghazi — “At this point, what difference does it make?” — repeated it with respect to Bergdahl’s possible defection. She told Dianne Sawyer, “It doesn’t matter.” Not to her, of course. To top it all off, Vichy John Kerry told CNN that it was “baloney” to say that American troops were in greater danger because of the prisoner swap. He also said that the Taliban Five could only attack America in the future at great risk. He of course didn’t say how we’d be able to find them or how we’d even know that they were behind any future attacks.
The party that met the five former Gitmo inmates when they landed in Qatar probably had several cell phones and laptops for each of them. From what are reportedly five-star accommodations, the Taliban leaders will be able to operate as if they were in Afghanistan. Presumably all of their communications will be targeted for interception by the NSA. Much valuable intelligence can be gained, but the value of that intelligence is in its use. The Afghanis won’t do anything with it, and it’s unlikely we will either given this president’s failure.
The effects of this swap will play out for years, in the months before the 2016 election and long after it. One effect will be that the remaining Guantanamo inmates — with the few exceptions of al Qaeda bigs such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed — are pretty much small fry, albeit still very dangerous in their own right. By swapping the Taliban brain trust for Bergdahl, Obama has enabled himself to justify further releases and trades. What’s the harm in trading some low-ranking al Qaeda men for other kidnapped Americans, or returning them to nations that make some ephemeral promise to keep them under surveillance? Obama will do everything he can which, given Congress’s self-imposed irrelevance, will be anything he wants to do to empty Gitmo of the rest, even though those who remain are the worst of the worst anti-American terrorists.
Another effect of Obama’s release of the Taliban brain trust could be open opposition to Obama from within the military. We’ve already seen several men who served with Bergdahl on television condemning him as a deserter and traitor. It’s possible — but only remotely so — that there will be some military leaders who will revolt against any further release of dangerous Gitmo inmates. This seems highly unlikely. If no generals were willing to threaten to resign over the release of the Taliban Top Five, none are going to over the release of any Gitmo small fry. Our Pentagon leadership has been so consumed in Obama’s policies and actions that it has largely forgotten that its duty is to the nation, not to Obama.
The most lasting effect of Obama’s action will be Afghanistan’s return to its pre-9/11 condition as a terrorist safe haven. Over the past two weeks I’ve listened to a lot of happy talk from a Republican member of Congress and several retired Army officers who should all know better. They speak of the great progress that has been made in Afghanistan, of how the Afghan people are so grateful to us, and of how they expect the Afghan nation to persevere.
As I have written many times since before the Iraq invasion of 2003, nation-building is the greatest mistake we have made since September 11, 2001. We know, from past experience, that Islamist terrorists like to choose significant dates in history for their attacks. Our biggest experiment in nation-building ended on April 30, 1975, when the last American helicopter lifted off from Saigon. Let’s hope and pray for the 9,800 Americans Obama has condemned to stay in Afghanistan until he’s clear of responsibility for that nation’s loss. When the last transport plane lifts off from Kabul in 2016, that nation will fall almost as quickly as South Vietnam did in 1975.