Oklahoma Military Expert Weighs In On US Prisoner Exchange

Sunday, June 1st 2014, 10:44 pm
By: News 9

The controversial decision to trade Taliban fighters for a US prisoner of war in Afghanistan has some people criticizing the deal that is bringing him home.

Retired Lt. Col. Steve Russell was instrumental in the capture of Saddam Hussein before serving in the Oklahoma State Senate. Russell says if the US did in fact negotiate with terrorists, then that could set a dangerous precedent.

"The good news is, he's coming home. The bad news is, there are a number of thorny issues that really have to be answered here," Russell said.

US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is now free and being evaluated at an American military hospital in Germany. Bergdahl was exchanged Saturday for five Taliban fighters at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"These are the hardest of the hard core. These are the highest high-risk people," said Sen. John McCain on CBS's Face the Nation.

The prisoner exchange is raising some eyebrows with experts in military law.

"It's been longstanding United States policy that we will not negotiate with terrorists because it will incentivize acts against Americans worldwide," Russell said.

Russell says the Army must determine, was Bergdahl a deserter or was he actually captured? Bergdahl had been in eastern Afghanistan since 2009. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the US did not negotiate with terrorists.

"This was a prisoner of war exchange. He was a prisoner," Hagel said.

Russell asks if it was a prisoner exchange, was the law violated without Congressional notification within 30 days?

"I also don't believe that if we violated the law, we need to have the precedent of looking to negotiate with terrorists because of the dangerous precedent it sets," Russell said. "If it is determined to be a prisoner exchange, then it's good news all the way around. However, we have to follow the rule of law in notification of Congress."

Hagel defends the Obama Administration's decision not to notify Congress or the Afghan government that the deal was unfolding saying, "intelligence indicated that Bergdahl's health was deteriorating."

Under the terms of the deal, the five men are required to stay in Qatar for at least a year. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hopes the deal could lead to breakthroughs with the Taliban.