The decision to exchange five Taliban insurgents for one U.S. Army sergeant has once again pitted the left and right against one another. Critics of the decision fear it sets a precedent that will encourage capture of American hostages in hopes of facilitating future exchanges, with many detractors also saying the president made the exchange illegally since he did not give Congress 30 days notice on the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Supporters counter by saying that no soldier should ever be left behind under any circumstances.
There are several questions that arise out of this incident, not the least of which is why Bergdahl, who left his post on June 30, 2009 as a Private First Class (E-3), is now a Sergeant (E-5). If he truly was a deserter, there is little cause to believe he would be honored with two promotions while in captivity with another promotion to Staff Sergeant (E-6) on the way, as CNN reports.
But regardless of all of this, there is a key element being left out of the equation: Bergdahl spent five years with the Taliban, and therefore provides military leadership with a unique opportunity to gain insight into the organization’s day-to-day operations.
He was so influenced by his stay with the terrorist organization that he could barely speak English upon his return according to some reports, and if it is true that Bergdahl did in fact leave his post due to disillusionment with the U.S. military mission, then he could provide even further insight into the mentality that is driving terrorist campaigns against the West being carried out by extremists the world over.
Regardless of Bergdahl’s patriotic sentiments (or lack thereof), the one thing that is sure is that it is not the Taliban’s job to punish American deserters, and even one American soldier in enemy hands is one too many.