Lawmakers demand answers from Obama

2014-06-05 12:16
(Yuri Gripas, AFP)

(Yuri Gripas, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - President Barack Obama's decision to swap five detained Taliban operatives for an American soldier captured in Afghanistan has baffled lawmakers, with many questioning the military and political merits of the controversial exchange.

Some warned that the president, already burdened by a series of crises, has sunk deeper into political quicksand by negotiating with terrorists, keeping Congress in the dark or manufacturing a military success story in order to mask other scandals.

Obama stands accused by a senior member of his own Democratic Party, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, of breaking US law by failing to provide lawmakers 30 days' notice before transferring prisoners out of Guantanamo.

In addition to its legality, Republicans and Democrats alike questioned the timing, political optics and price of the operation that saw US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl released by his Taliban captors after five years of captivity in Afghanistan.

The White House has offered several explanations for acting without congressional notification to recover Bergdahl.

At first, it argued his health and safety were in immediate jeopardy. Later, it said a delay would interfere with the president's constitutional function of protecting Americans.

Dramatically complicating the defence of the swap are the questionable circumstances of Bergdahl's capture, with some soldiers accusing the 28-year-old of desertion and the US military announcing it will investigate whether he should be disciplined.

"It doesn't look good," Senator Joe Manchin winced on Wednesday ahead of a classified briefing for all 100 senators in which officials provided details on the exchange.

But Manchin said he emerged with more questions than answers.

With the backlash growing, officials in Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho cancelled a 28 June homecoming parade "in the interest of public safety", saying the town was too small for a large influx of supporters and journalists.

The town of 8 000 said it lacked the infrastructure to host a major event, citing expectations of a large crowd of "people who both want to support or protest against it", according to a statement posted on Bergdahl supporters' website.

Political backlash

One persistent question circulating in Washington: did Obama, whose administration spent years studying options for gaining Bergdahl's release, misgauge the potential political fallout of his move?

"I think he probably didn't understand the backlash to releasing the 'Fab Five' from Gitmo", Republican Senator Mark Kirk told AFP.

He added that Obama, still feeling the political heat from a scandal that led to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation last week, might have rushed the Bergdahl swap in order to change the headlines.

"My worry is that he thought this was going to be a great military-related story that could pull attention from the VA," Kirk said.

"I think the sense is that this has gone pretty sour for the president politically."

Instead, it's become another talking point flummoxing fellow Democrats and arming Republicans with more criticism about the president's decision-making.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a national security hawk, fuelled the argument that Obama approved the deal as a way to whittle down the number of detainees at Guantanamo.

"Here's what bothers a lot of people in Congress: many of us believe they seized an opportunity here to release five problematic detainees," Graham told reporters.

"Their goal is to empty that jail."

Obama acknowledged the sensitivity of trading the Taliban prisoners, and how their possible "recidivism" could see them return to anti-American hostilities.

Senator John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, lashed out at the release, saying it was a terribly high price to pay to get Bergdahl home.

"I promise you, in a year from now, if not before, they will be back in Afghanistan and in the fight."

Congress will hold a series of Bergdahl hearings beginning next week.

They are supported by House Speaker John Boehner, who said Obama bypassed Congress on the swap "because the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition."
Read more on:    taliban  |  bowe bergdahl  |  barack obama  |  us  |  afghanistan  |  us terror threat
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Camping gear!

We’ve got all your camping must have’s right here at mind blowing low prices. Check them out now!

Herbex – buy 3 & get 1 free!

Fat burn packs, appetite control chewies, stretch mark cream and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

30% off Jinger Jack handbags

Spice up your wardrobe and save 30% on stylish Jinger Jack handbags. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Buy 3 books & pay for 2

The cheapest of the 3 books will be free. Offer valid while stocks last. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

Deal of the week!

Hisense 40” Full HD LED Television now R3999. Offer valid while stocks last. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Mercury has moved into Libra which adds a more social energy to the way you can communicate and connect things. Today is about...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.