Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered a full-throated defense Wednesday of the Obama administration and its release of senior Taliban commanders to secure the freedom of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Reid said that “just a couple of weeks ago,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) released a statement calling on the Department of Defense to “Do all it can to find Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and bring him home.”
He cited a resolution sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) expressing a sense of the Senate that “no member of the armed forces who was missing in action should be left behind.”
He also pointed to Sen. James Inhofe’s (Okla.) statement that the United States “must make every effort to bring this captured soldier home to his family.”
Inhofe is the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Days after Ayotte called on the Department of Defense in an op-ed to “redouble its efforts to find Sgt. Bergdahl,” she criticized the deal that secured his freedom.
"The administration’s decision to release these five terrorist detainees endangers U.S. national security interests,” she said.
Inhofe blasted the prisoner exchange that freed Bergdahl.
“You can't negotiate with a terrorists, and these five guys, just by their titles ... they are the five arguably the most dangerous of the 149 left in Gitmo,” Inhofe said during a Fox News interview of the five Taliban commanders released.
“It wouldn't make any difference who Bergdahl was. You don't swap out and turn back to the fight people who have killed Americans, people who are the brain power of Taliban,” he added.
Reid slammed his Republican colleagues and said Obama did the right thing.
“President Obama as commander in chief acted honorably in helping an American soldier return home,” Reid said.
“Unfortunately, though, Mr. President, opponents of President Obama have seized upon the release of an American prisoner of war — that’s what he was — using a moment of celebration for our nation as a chance to play political games,” he said, addressing his comment to the Senate’s presiding chairman.
“Some of these senators are now denouncing the very same efforts that secured Sgt. Bergdahl’s release. They’re worried his release could be seen as a victory for President Obama,” he added.
Republicans have blasted the prisoner exchange as setting a dangerous precedent of “negotiating with terrorists” and have raised questions about whether Bergdahl deserted his post before being captured by the Taliban.
Reid said members of Congress are in no position to judge Bergdahl’s actions from five years ago.
“There are questions regarding Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance and whether or not military code was violated. These are issues that will be resolved by the United States Army, not Monday-morning quarterbacks on Capitol Hill,” he said.
Reid argued that even if Bergdahl went absent without leave, it is far better that he be disciplined by U.S. military authorities than left to the whims of his Taliban captors.
“Would any American honestly prefer that a U.S. soldier remain in captivity until all the questions have been answered? Of course not,” he said.