Several officials in US President Barack Obama’s government are pushing back against criticism over a deal struck between the US and the Taliban to exchange five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for an American prisoner of war who was held in Afghanistan.
Critics of the move argue that it violates a long-standing US policy not to negotiate with terrorists.
“What does this tell the terrorists, that if you capture a US soldier you can trade that soldier for five terrorists,” said Texas Senator Ted Cruz, adding that it was a “change in US policy” that was “very disturbing.”
Senator John McCain said that the Taliban prisoners that were released are “the hardest of the hard-core”, and were “possibly responsible for the deaths of thousands.”
“We need more information about the conditions of where they’re going to be and how,” McCain said. “But it is disturbing that these individuals would have the ability to re-enter the fight.”
Senator Claire McCaskill responded to the criticism by saying that “this was not a hostage; this was a prisoner of war.”
“It is much different when you are negotiating with the enemy for a prisoner of war. We have done prisoner swaps many times in our nation’s history.”
McCaskill accused Republican critics of exploiting the situation in order to score political points.
“Unfortunately, this is our enemy now. We don’t have nation-states as our enemies, we have terrorist organizations as our enemies,” she said. “If this man’s life had been lost, and it came out that we had this opportunity and our commander in chief passed on it, the Republicans would be going crazy right now.”
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the decision to make the exchange was made because the American prisoner’s “safety and health were both in jeopardy.”
“I don’t think that what we did in getting our prisoner of war home would in any way encourage terrorists to take hostages.”