WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he does not think the trade of five Taliban leaders who’d been detained at Guantanamo Bay for the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was a good deal or even the right deal for the United States.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Manchin on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” On Wednesday evening, he attended a closed-door briefing for lawmakers from senior Pentagon officials in Washington, D.C. amid the mounting criticisms of the Bergdahl exchange.
“These are not just run-of-the-mill Taliban. These are people who have the ability to plan, who are high level and everyone believes will go back into that same scenario as soon as they can,” Manchin said.
The Taliban held Bergdahl in captivity for five years. Investigations into the circumstances leading to his capture are ongoing, but soldiers who served with Bergdahl — an Idaho native — have said he had become disillusioned about the U.S. role in Afghanistan and was captured when he left his post in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 without a weapon or body armor.
According to reports, Bergdahl’s declining health was one of the driving factors for the exchange which was made without required advance notification to Congress. The National Defense Authorization Act specifies 30 days notice.
On Thursday, Manchin said he was drafting a letter to send to President Barack Obama and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. In it, he was calling for all American military members to be moved out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.
“Don’t leave 9,800. We’re at 32,000 right now. They said we’re going to leave another 9,800 there for another year. Bring ’em all home, Mr. President. If that’s our policy, bring ’em all home now. Don’t put them in harm’s way any longer,” said Manchin.
“If we’re going to return five of the most notorious planners (from the Taliban) who have killed thousands and thousands of human beings, knowing that their only lot in life is to harm America and destroy America and we willingly made a trade, them bring everybody home, Mr. President.”
Hagel is scheduled to attend a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee next Wednesday to take questions from lawmakers about the trade.
Bergdahl was still receiving medical care in Germany earlier this week.