US Prisoner Exchange Coming Under Scrutiny

In the wake of the prisoner swap the US made to secure the freedom of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, some who have offered a defense of the Obama administration’s actions have drawn comparisons with Israel. Often the Israeli government will trade more than a hundred prisoners for one Israeli soldier, but Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary magazine that there is no parallel.

“While the Israelis often pay too high a price for their hostages, they do so without conceding defeat in the long-term struggle in which they are engaged. The Bergdahl deal appears to be not just a lopsided swap but also an indication that the U.S. may be conceding defeat to the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he writes.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose relations with the US already are at a low-point, is said to be highly critical of the deal, which was made without his knowledge.

Daily Beast columnist Josh Rogin suggests the prisoner exchange may be just the beginning of President Obama’s effort to “empty” the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Now there’s growing concern on Capitol Hill that President Obama now intends to bypass Congress to fulfill his promise to close the prison by releasing scores of more Guantanamo prisoners with little public or even private debate. Lawmakers and staffers see the Bergdahl case as only the latest maneuver in a larger plan to cut Congress out of the Guantanamo issue; and they’re not exactly reassured by senior administration officials’ refusal to disclose what steps will be taken to mitigate the risk that these prisoners could become involved again in the Afghan insurgency,” he writes.

Ironically, the Israeli parliament currently is engaged in a heated discussion over proposed legislation to prevent leaders from being able to offer prisoner releases in exchange for political concessions in talks with Palestinians. The legislation eventually was scuttled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 2011, more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were exchanged for the release of Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, who had been held since Palestinian militants abducted him in 2006.

A victory is exactly how Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar perceives the deal issuing a statement praising the exchange of five Guantanamo Bay detainees as a “big victory”.


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