The Obama administration sent a message for years to wary military and intelligence officials who believed the release of the Taliban Five would come back to haunt the U.S.: ‘Suck it up and salute.’
Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammed Nabi Omari were all deemed in 2008 to be at “high risk” for returning to the battlefield if released, but that did not stop the White House from releasing them in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over the weekend.
“Officials in the Pentagon and intelligence communities had successfully fought off release of the five men in the past,” Time reported Tuesday. “This [sudden release] was out of the norm,” he continued. “There was never [a] conversation.”
“Obama’s move was an ultimate victory for those at the White House and the State Department who had previously argued the military should ‘suck it up and salute,’ says the official familiar with the debate,” reported Time.
National Security Counsel Deputy for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told the magazine that “there was not a dissent on moving forward with this plan,” from representatives at the Pentagon, State Department, intelligence community and Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Officials who spoke with Time contradict that claim, saying of the released terror suspects: “These five are clearly bad dudes.”
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“When our military is engaged in combat operations you’re always going to err on the side of caution,” said a source. “Just conceptually, how much sense does it make to release your enemy when you’re still at war with him?”
One of Time’s sources added that officials were repeatedly given a “heavy burden to show” that the terror suspects “were bad.”
On Tuesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey defended the Obama administration’s move, saying: “In response to those of you interested in my personal judgments about the recovery of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover any U.S. service member in enemy captivity. This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him. As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts. Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty.”