All seven of the country’s top military advisers say they support President Obama’s decision to trade Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for Taliban commanders.
“Each of these military leaders emphasized a simple principle — America does not leave its troops behind,” Levin said in a statement. “The unanimous support of the Joint Chiefs for securing Sergeant Bergdahl’s release is a powerful statement on the importance of that commitment. I give great weight to their views, and I believe it’s important for the American people to hear them.”
The White House has come under blistering criticism from congressional lawmakers who charge that the administration broke the law by not notifying them 30 days in advance that the five Taliban leaders, released from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar, would be traded for Bergdahl.
Many fear the detainees could return to the battlefield, or even someday help stage an attack on the United States.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote that he “concluded the risk posed by the detainee’s future activity would be less grave than breaking faith with our forces in combat.”
Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno noted that while he “was not consulted in any way” about the swap he has since come to believe that no “viable rescue operation existed” to snatch Bergdahl from his Taliban kidnappers after five years of captivity.
The other military leaders lodged similar complaints about not being briefed on the trade before it happened, but all said they supported the administration’s decision.
It would have been unusual for the Joint Chiefs to publicly question the president's decision, given his role as commander in chief of the armed forces.
Still, the backing of the Joint Chiefs bolsters the White House's position that the trade was needed to ensure that no American soldier is ever left behind.
The Army last month began its investigation last month into Bergdahl’s disappearance from his military base in Afghanistan in 2009; he could face charges if investigators determine he deserted his base.
“Sergeant Bergdahl’s future reside in our hands, not the Taliban’s,” wrote Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefield.