McCain: Released prisoners behind 9/11

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday called the five Guantánamo detainees released in a prisoner swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl "hard-core military jihadists who are responsible for 9/11" and said he expects them to return to fighting against the U.S.

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"I wouldn't release these men, not these men. They were evaluated and judged as too great a risk to release," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

President Obama's decision to release the five Taliban leaders in exchange for Bergdahl has sparked fierce criticism from Republicans, McCain chief among them, because of Bergdahl's suspected desertion and the danger of the prisoners released.

Obama and his allies have defended the choice as one central to the core values of the military, to leave no man behind as the war in Afghanistan comes to a close.

McCain, himself a prisoner of war, agreed to a point, but said the risk of releasing the five Taliban leaders was too great.

"We should do everything we can in our power to win the release of any American being held, but not at the expense of the lives and well being of fellow servicemen and women. We owe that obligation to them," he said.

"I'm sad to tell you I'm afraid they're going to re-enter the fight," said McCain, who warned that, ultimately, their return could become even more dangerous because of Obama's plans to remove all combat troops from Afghanistan.

"You can have a certain price [for a prisoner of war], but it's exacerbated by the president's decision to take everybody out of Afghanistan. And these people will be going back as the Taliban leadership, and this will, of course, in my view, cause another replay of Iraq," he said.

McCain also suggested there were other prisoners the U.S. could've exchanged for Bergdahl.

“I believe there are other prisoners, some of whom we have already released, that we could have released in exchange,” he said. “These five are the top five picked by the Taliban. Not by us, but by the Taliban.”