Touch and go on Bergdahl release until very end

Soldier was apparently disillusioned with the war and left his post
Associated Press
Jun 3, 2014

Right up until the moment Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed, U.S. officials weren't sure the Taliban would really release the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan in exchange for high-level militants detained at Guantanamo Bay.

It was touch and go. But then came the call at 5:12 p.m. Saturday on a secure phone line at the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar. U.S. negotiators learned that Bergdahl, a 28-year-old from Hailey, Idaho, held by the Taliban for nearly five years, was aboard a Delta Force helicopter bound for a U.S. base north of Kabul.

Bergdahl's release has hardly been a straightforward yellow-ribbon moment for the U.S. Bergdahl apparently was disillusioned with the war and left his post. The decision to free him in exchange for five top Taliban officials who have been held in the U.S. detention center in Cuba has raised questions about whether such a swap was too big a concession to make.

According to a State Department official directly involved in the negotiations in Doha, U.S. officials who had holed up in the embassy for three straight days thought the final days of negotiations with the Taliban's political leadership, through Qatari intermediaries, had gone pretty smoothly. The U.S. had gotten the Taliban to agree that the five detainees would be prohibited from traveling outside Qatar for a year after their release — something the Taliban earlier had opposed. In return, the U.S. agreed to release all five detainees at once, not one or two at a time as previously offered, in an effort to get Bergdahl back more quickly.

Still, the negotiators weren't positive the deal would work until they got the call that U.S. forces had the Army sergeant, who broke down and cried during the flight. After the call, the negotiators were emotional, too, he said.

"Backslapping was not how I would describe it," he said. "It wasn't like New Year's Eve. It was emotional, but not a giddy moment."

It's still unclear what the exact breakthrough moment was, but over lengthy negotiations the official said the talks gelled. Both sides wanted it to happen immediately before it could fall apart.

Details of the secret negotiations were described by the State Department official. But other information on the state of diplomacy between the Taliban, the U.S. and others was described by other current and former U.S. officials. None were authorized to speak about the deal publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity. The negotiating team included two each from the State Department and the Pentagon, one from the White House national security staff and two from the U.S. Embassy in Doha.

President Barack Obama, in Europe for meetings with several nations' leaders and NATO officials, said Tuesday his administration had consulted with Congress about that possibility "for some time."

The prisoner swap idea had evolved in fits and starts since early 2011. The idea of an exchange was one of three confidence-building measures that were meant to open the door for the Afghan government to hold direct peace negotiations with the Taliban.

The goal was for the Taliban network to disassociate itself from international terrorism, which essentially required them to break ranks with al-Qaida, and open a political office in Qatar. In June 2013, the Taliban opened the office, adorning it with the same white flag flown during its five-year rule of Afghanistan that ended with the 2001 American-led invasion. Afghan President Hamid Karzai became incensed because he saw that as a Taliban effort to set up a government-in-exile. While the office never opened, Qatar proved a good place to have back-channel communication with the Taliban.

The State Department official, who spent the past 11 days in Doha helping guide the final round of negotiations to release Bergdahl, said that after the office-opening incident, the U.S. made it clear that it was amenable to indirect or direct talks with the Taliban.

In September 2013, the Taliban made an offer that appeared to be a request for direct talks about the Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. responded by seeking proof that Bergdahl was still alive. The Taliban released a video of Bergdahl in January.

A month later, however, the Taliban said they had suspended talks with the U.S. to exchange Bergdahl for the five Taliban officials. U.S. officials viewed it as a relatively mild rebuff and went to the Qataris to find out whether there still was the possibility of talks about the detainees. The Qataris agreed to act as an intermediary and after some consideration, the Taliban decided they were willing to talk.

No substantive discussion about terms of the swap occurred before both sides agreed to the latest talks, which started in late March or early April. U.S. officials were never in the same room with the Taliban leaders.

U.S. officials would talk to the Qataris, who would then contact the Taliban. Sometimes a couple of weeks would pass before U.S. officials would get a response from the Taliban on various issues involving the swap. In the few days leading up to Saturday's release, the communication became more frequent and the turnaround time was only a day.

U.S. officials did their negotiating in various Qatari government buildings — once changing venues because of broken air conditioning.

The State Department official said there was not a single breakthrough that allowed the swap to materialize, although U.S. officials believed that the Taliban's decision to accept the one-year travel ban for the released detainees was a large step forward. In earlier rounds of negotiations, the Taliban had always sought exemptions from the travel ban for medical purposes or other reasons.

The official said the detainees' activities will be limited in Qatar, an Arab emirate on the Persian Gulf, but that the conditions are not like house arrest. The five detainees, who are all in their 40s, received physicals upon arriving in Qatar on Sunday.

By last Wednesday morning, the U.S. negotiators had finalized the broad terms of the agreement. Then it was down to risky logistics of actually transferring Bergdahl in a war zone where both sides, who are fighting each other, had to be present.

Even on Saturday, up until the moment Bergdahl walked free, the U.S. negotiators were on the phone talking to the Taliban political leaders — through the Qataris — trying to prevent a misunderstanding from scuttling the deal.




We have a President, since when ? I spent eight years in the military defending The Constitution, and Bozo took the same oath and violates at will .


Defending the Constitution against who?


Hopefully sooner or later against you brainless wonders and your god.


Good one deetracker! :}


In the picture, and the story in the link Bottom Line posted, he was a PFC when he deserted his post, but now he is a Sgt.? Dang, I wish I had thought of that while I was slogging through the ranks. Desert my post AND continue to get promoted.


They would shoot you. You probably don't have the right genes.


Here is a good article:

Congratulations, Mr. President! And identical congrats to your sorcerer’s apprentice, National Security Adviser Susan Rice. By trying to sell him as an American hero, you’ve turned a deserter already despised by soldiers in the know into quite possibly the most-hated individual soldier in the history of our military.

I have never witnessed such outrage from our troops.

Exhibit A: Ms. Rice. In one of the most tone-deaf statements in White House history (we’re making a lot of history here), the national-security advisor, on a Sunday talk show, described Bergdahl as having served “with honor and distinction.” Those serving in uniform and those of us who served previously were already stirred up, but that jaw-dropper drove us into jihad mode.

But pity Ms. Rice. Like the president she serves, she’s a victim of her class. Nobody in the inner circle of Team Obama has served in uniform. It shows. That bit about serving with “honor and distinction” is the sort of perfunctory catch-phrase politicians briefly don as electoral armor. (“At this point in your speech, ma’am, devote one sentence to how much you honor the troops.”)

I actually believe that Ms. Rice was kind of sincere, in her spectacularly oblivious way. In the best Manchurian Candidate manner, she said what she had been programmed to say by her political culture, then she was blindsided by the firestorm she ignited by scratching two flinty words together. At least she didn’t blame Bergdahl’s desertion on a video.

The president, too, appears stunned. He has so little understanding of (or interest in) the values and traditions of our troops that he and his advisers really believed that those in uniform would erupt into public joy at the news of Bergdahl’s release — as D.C. frat kids did when Osama bin Laden’s death was trumpeted.

Both President Obama and Ms. Rice seem to think that the crime of desertion in wartime is kind of like skipping class. They have no idea of how great a sin desertion in the face of the enemy is to those in our military. The only worse sin is to side actively with the enemy and kill your brothers in arms. This is not sleeping in on Monday morning and ducking Gender Studies 101.

But compassion, please! The president and all the president’s men and women are not alone. Our media elite — where it’s a rare bird who bothered to serve in uniform — instantly became experts on military justice. Of earnest mien and blithe assumption, one talking head after another announced that “we always try to rescue our troops, even deserters.”

Uh, no. “Save the deserter” is a recent battle cry of the politically indoctrinated brass. For much of our history, we did make some efforts to track down deserters in wartime. Then we shot or hanged them. Or, if we were in good spirits, we merely used a branding iron to burn a large D into their cheeks or foreheads. Even as we grew more enlightened, desertion brought serious time in a military prison. At hard labor.

This is a fundamental culture clash. Team Obama and its base cannot comprehend the values still cherished by those young Americans “so dumb” they joined the Army instead of going to prep school and then to Harvard. Values such as duty, honor, country, physical courage, and loyalty to your brothers and sisters in arms have no place in Obama World. (Military people don’t necessarily all like each other, but they know they can depend on each other in battle — the sacred trust Bergdahl violated.)

President Obama did this to himself (and to Bergdahl). This beautifully educated man, who never tires of letting us know how much smarter he is than the rest of us, never stopped to consider that our troops and their families might have been offended by their commander-in-chief staging a love-fest at the White House to celebrate trading five top terrorists for one deserter and featuring not the families of those soldiers (at least six of them) who died in the efforts to find and free Bergdahl, but, instead, giving a starring role on the international stage to Pa Taliban, parent of a deserter and a creature of dubious sympathies (that beard on pops ain’t a tribute to ZZ Top). How do you say “outrageous insult to our vets” in Pashto?

Nor, during the recent VA scandal, had the president troubled himself to host the families of survivors of those vets who died awaiting care. No, the warmest attention our president has ever paid to a “military family” was to Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl.

(I will refrain from criticism of the bumptious attempts to cool the flames of this political conflagration by Secretary Hagel: I never pick on the weak.)

What is to be done? Behind the outrage triggered by Team Obama’s combination of cynicism and obliviousness (Bergdahl was so ill we had to set those terrorists free immediately, without notifying Congress, but now he’s chugging power shakes in a military hospital . . . and all this just happened to come at the peak of the VA scandal . . . ), military members don’t really want to lynch Bergdahl. But they want justice.

Our military leaders need to rediscover their moral courage and honor our traditions, our regulations, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. We need a fresh, unprejudiced 15-6 investigation (the military equivalent of a grand jury). We already know, as the military has known since the first 24 hours after Bergdahl abandoned his post, that sufficient evidence exists for a court-martial, but it’s important to do this by the numbers.

It’s hard to believe that the resulting court-martial would not find Bergdahl guilty of desertion (although there will be heavy White House pressure to reduce the charge to Absent Without Leave, or AWOL, status, a lesser offense). If he is convicted, I for one do not want him to go to prison. I’m sure he’s paid and paid for betraying his comrades, quite possibly suffering brutal sexual violence. But if he is found guilty, he needs to be formally reduced to the rank of private, stripped of all privileges and entitlements (the taxpayer should not pay for a deserter’s lifelong health care — Bergdahl’s book and film deals can cover that), and he should be given the appropriate prison sentence, which would then be commuted by the president. Thereafter, let Mr. Bergdahl go home and live with himself.

As for President Obama, how about just one word of thanks to the families of those fallen soldiers you sent out to find Bowe Bergdahl?


Would you want your son freed or any of the x6? It is very possible that Bergdahl did serve with honor and distinction at some point. We all fall down. I am okay with punishing him if he is guilty of anything but to do that you have to ring him home. DUH? What about that military code?


Re: "Would you want your son freed,"

At what price?

I'd let your kid rot, dweeb.


I wouldn't even let your kid rot pooh.

I would want my kid freed at ANY price!


Re: "I would want my kid freed at ANY price!"

I want it and to h*ll with everyone else that this 'trade' may put in danger.

Selfish dweeb, real selfish.


Tracker,What branch of the service were you in ? If you are not a veteran, shut up. You have no idea what you would do or want .If you are ,you may speak and don't give me 1st amendment rights because your buddies are trying to replace that !


I was not in any branch of the service and I am proud of that. Military service is a choice not a requirement. It does not negate any of my birth rights. No one is infringing on any of our Constitutional rights. So you cleaned the barracks and washed a few million dishes. BFD!

The Big Dog's back

non mom of 6, what if it was one of your 6? A real mother would never feel the way you do.


Tell me how people like deertracker, coasterfan, Bigdog, and Santown419 can continue to run their mouth about Fox News unless they have been watching it themselves? These four have done more to drive people to vote Republican than anyone I know.


I do watch Faux news sometimes. That's how I know it is a bs news source. It is you that should turn the channel at least sometimes. You must enjoy watching all those fake Barbies.


So where do you get your news? The gay/lesbian channel of MSNBC?


Homophobic much? What they do in their private lives is not my concern nor is it any concern of mine .....or yours. MSNBC does present facts and willingly makes any necessary corrections unlike Faux news.

They even have a black fake azz Barbie!

What would you do if you had a gay child?


Oh, so you get upset when someone makes fun of the channel YOU watch. That was the point. I do not care about what anyone does in their private lives. As for having a gay child, would not bother me. And why do you say they present "facts"? Who says they are facts and other channels are not? What IS a "black fake azz Barbie"? It was the fact that ALL news channels are slanted ONE way or the other. They all have a side they take. Honestly I do not watch EITHER one. I channel surf, stopping long enough to watch a snippet and laugh at all of them. They all stretch the truth to fit their needs.


You are projecting! I have no reason to be upset. Faux just rails against the President regardless of the topic. That's not news or factual.

Black azz fake Barbie = a black woman with the long fake Barbie hair with the very unattractive blue eye shadow and generic lipstick.
Most Black women don't need all that!

I get my humor from Faux news and the ID channel is the favorite.
If the gay thing was not an issue for you, why bring it up?


Re: "Faux just rails against the President regardless of the topic,"

And you kiss his *ss "regardless of the topic," dweeb.


I just give credit where it is due.


You kiss his *ss "regardless of the topic," dweeb.


You hate him regardless of the topic. You have no credibility!


To quote you:

"You have no credibility" kiss *ss.


NO CREDIBILITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


"MSNBC does present facts and willingly makes any necessary corrections unlike Faux news."

85% of MSNBC is opinion, 15% fact based.

CNN, which has branded itself around reporting resources and reach, cut back between 2007 and 2012 on two areas tied to that brand—in-depth story packages and live event coverage. Even so, CNN is the only one of the three big cable news channels to produce more straight reporting than commentary over all. At the other end of that spectrum lies MSNBC, where opinion fills a full 85% of the channel’s airtime.1


A separate Pew Research examination of programming in December 2012 found MSNBC by far the most opinionated of the three networks, with nearly 90% of its primetime coverage coming in the form of opinion or commentary. And that remains the case with many of its packaged segments. Host Rachel Maddow, for example, often begins her show with a lengthy segment combining a monologue with video clips that can last for seven minutes or longer.


Still, the increasing reliance on packaged segments on MSNBC in prime time does not translate into more straight news reporting. For example, host Rachel Maddow often leads her program with a long package filled with her own opinions on a subject. Indeed, the Pew Research analysis of three days of cable coverage in December 2012 finds that opinion and commentary overwhelms straight news—86% to 14%—on the network’s prime time programs. That is the highest percentage of prime-time opinion of any of the three channels.


This research project is not just limited to the one page I linked here but covers much more. Deer, feel free to show their findings as wrong about how much time is spent on MSNBC on facts compared to opinion. The numbers just don't agree with your statement, as shown above. You can also find how Fox does. I rarely watch either. They don't take the Comedy channel into consideration on tracking news. So where some folks get their news from is not studied and used in this report.


You guys go after MSNBC because you are HOMOPHOBES!


Re: "You (snip)"

To quote you:

“You're not making any usual!”

– deertracker, 6/12/13


Truth hurts huh? Get over it!