House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers called the U.S. deal with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a “serious geopolitical mistake,” and said he is “absolutely convinced” that the five Taliban members transferred from the Guantanamo detention center will return to the battlefield against the United States.
“We have made a serious, serious geopolitical mistake. We’ve empowered the Taliban,” Rogers, R-Mich., told George Stephanopoulos this morning on “This Week.” “The one thing that they wanted more than anything, George, was recognition from the U.S. government so they can use that to propagandize against areas that are unsecure still in Afghanistan. They got all of that.”
Rogers said he is certain the five Taliban members released from Guantanamo to Doha, Qatar, for the next year will use their time to prepare to return to the fight in Afghanistan, as they are free to meet with Taliban political leaders in Doha and can have family members travel to Qatar.
“We believe that’s certainly an opportunity for a courier network, to get them prepared for what’s next,” Rogers said.
“I don’t think you’ll see any operational activity right now by them. They’re smart enough to know better,” Rogers added. “But it allows them to prepare for what’s next. And that’s going to be to join the fight against what Americans are left in Afghanistan in 51 weeks… I am convinced, absolutely convinced of that.”
Rogers said he believes the Obama administration’s willingness to negotiate trading prisoners with the Taliban over Bergdahl’s release may lead to hostage-taking in the Middle East.
“We are going to pay for this decision for years,” he said.
“This is a huge regional and geopolitical problem for the United States moving forward,” Rogers said. “Hostages are now currency in this war on terror. That’s always dangerous for both diplomats, aid workers, soldiers on the battlefield.”
Rogers, who said Congress should have been consulted more on the deal, said not enough conditions were met for the release of Bergdahl, citing the words of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“The Secretary of State at that time, Hillary Clinton, said that if all of our conditions aren’t met, then none of them will be met,” Rogers said. “And it was conditions like renouncing violence, adhering to the Afghan constitution and making sure that women are treated fairly in Afghanistan. We got none of that.”
Rogers also said the fact that Bergdahl was held in Pakistan raises questions about other options the U.S. could have pursued for Bergdahl’s release.
“Remember, he was in Pakistan, not all that far, we believe, from an ISI, their intelligence service, and military outposts,” Rogers said. “We never went at Pakistan with any level of pressure to say you’re going to have to help us solve this problem.”
As Bergdahl recovers from his captivity in Landstuhl, Germany, before his eventual return to the U.S., Rogers also said that questions must still be answered about his leaving his post voluntarily before he was captured by the Taliban five years ago.
“I think that the Department of Defense needs to do a very thorough investigation,” Rogers said. “You jeopardize other soldiers when you walk away from your post, period and end of story. And that’s a serious, serious matter in a combat zone.”
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