Afghan government protests prisoner swap

 

Afghanistan’s government late Sunday protested the deal to release Taliban prisoners in exchange for the only U.S. soldier held there.

"No government can transfer citizens of a country to a third country as prisoners," the Afghan foreign affairs ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai hasn’t commented on the prisoner swap.

Five Taliban prisoners held at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were flown to Qatar on Sunday as part of the deal.

In exchange, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban for five years, was released Saturday night and rescued by U.S. Special Operations forces.

The Taliban prisoners were held at Guantánamo Bay since 2012 and are required to stay in Qatar for one year.

All five detainees were classified by the Pentagon as “high risk” and “likely to pose a threat.” At least two of them are suspected of committing war crimes including the murder of Afghan Shiites, Reuters noted.

A number of Republican lawmakers lashed out at the administration over the weekend for circumventing Congress on the deal.

They all contend that relevant congressional committees should have been notified at least 30 days before any transfer of prisoners.

Others expressed alarm at the idea that the U.S. negotiated with terrorists, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday said Bergdahl’s life was in danger, and his health was deteriorating.

The prisoner swap and tension with the Afghan government come less than a week after President Obama announced the U.S. withdrawal plan from Afghanistan.

After most troops are withdrawn later this year, 9,800 will remain until a full pullout by the end of 2016.