Veteran rep: Bergdahl deal 'shocking'

Greg Nash

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said the exchange of five Taliban members for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a “shocking” disappointment.

Kinzinger, a freshman lawmaker who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was fiercely critical of the administration for negotiating the release of Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban members detained at Guantánamo Bay. Bergdahl, the only remaining prisoner of war from combat in Afghanistan, had been held for five years.

But the deal puts five more “mid- to high-level Taliban” back on the battlefield, putting American troops at risk, Kinzinger said.

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“You are now going to have five people potentially on the ground, targeting American troops, Afghan troops and Afghan people,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This whole exchange is shocking to me, and I’m very disappointed.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday insisted the U.S. did not deal with terrorist hostage-takers in negotiating the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“We didn’t negotiate with terrorists,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Sgt. Bergdahl is a prisoner of war; that’s a normal process in getting your prisoners back.”

“We don’t let anyone out of Guantánamo, and I will not sign off on any detainee coming out of Guantánamo, unless I am assured … that we can efficiently mitigate any risk to American security,” he said.

In the NBC appearance, Kinzinger also backed the resignation of Eric Shinseki as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. But he insisted that alone was not enough to address long-term issues at that government agency, and others would have to be held responsible for long delays at VA facilities and attempts to hide that fact.

“I want to see people fired. I want to see people prosecuted,” he said. “That’s what we have to do next — clean house.”

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