A Taliban commander, who was part of the negotiations for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, has said that the successful exchange for prisoners will embolden the Taliban to capture more high-value targets.
“It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,” the commander told Time magazine. “It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.”
The commander requested anonymity because he is not permitted to speak to the media. Time claims he is a verified and reliable source who has been in the contact with the magazine’s staff for “several years.”
Such a claim is sure to spark more controversy as many lawmakers claim the Obama administration broke a long-standing policy that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists.
Bergdahl’s release was negotiated by the Obama administration. In exchange for the soldier, who had been in Taliban custody for five years, the administration released five Taliban prisoners from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Those five men will be detained for another year in Qatar.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said on ABC’s This Week that the exchange sets a dangerous precedent.
“What does this tell terrorists?” he said. “That if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorist prisoners?”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, agrees. USA Today quoted a statement Rubio released on Sunday.
"I fear that the administration's decision to negotiate with the Taliban for Sgt. Bergdahl's release could encourage future terrorist kidnappings of Americans,” the statement read.
However, many experts argue that the U.S. has a long history of negotiating with terrorists for the release of prisoners.
Bruce Hoffman, the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, said that the common claim of "we do not negotiate with terrorists” is really "repeated as mantra more than fact.”
"We have long negotiated with terrorists. Virtually every other country in the world has negotiated with terrorists despite pledges never to," Hoffman claimed. "We should be tough on terrorists, but not on our fellow countrymen who are their captives, which means having to make a deal with the devil when there is no alternative.”
Hoffman cited numerous examples, including the Iran hostage crisis in which the U.S. eventually negotiated to have 52 American hostages released. Michael O’Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution, said it was well known that the Obama administration was seeking the prisoner exchange for Bergdahl’s release.
This claim would suggest that the current protests over the negotiations are more politically motivated than anything else.
Furthermore, it can be argued, O’Hanlon pointed out, that the exchange is unfairly characterized as a simple swap for a hostage.
"I always saw the downside but don't recall the pitched debate about (it) until now,” O’Hanlon wrote in an email. "In a broader sense, even though the war is undeclared, this is a prisoner swap among belligerents more than a release of a hostage held by terrorists.”