On the Sunday talk-show circuit, Susan Rice defended the president's decision to trade five high-level Taliban members for the return of the U.S. soldier, calling it a “sacred obligation,” despite charges by Republicans that the trade violated U.S. law and puts other Americans at risk.
"Sergeant Bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war, captured on the battlefield," Rice said on ABC's This Week. "We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our Republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who were taken in battle. And we did that in this instance." The administration was "committed to getting him back as we're committed to bringing every American taken on the battlefield back," she told host George Stephanopoulos. "He served the United States with honor and distinction," she said of Bergdahl during the same interview.
Yet the Pentagon concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl, missing in action since June 2009, had walked away from his unit in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported. The statement that he was "captured on the battlefield" is reminiscent of assertions made by Rice, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, when she said repeatedly after the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack that the heavily armed assault on Americans there was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islamic video circulating on the Internet. The ambassador was following "talking points" prepared by the CIA and the White House.
The prisoners to be released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, called by some the "jihadist dream team," includes Mullah Mohammad Fazl, a former deputy defense minister for the Taliban. They are to be transferred to Qatar, where they are to remain for a year while the Qatar government closely monitors their activities. The danger, say critics of the deal, is that they will eventually reenter the fighting in Afghanistan, where President Obama has said the United States will maintain up to 10,000 troops through 2016. Republicans argue the swap increased the incentive for the Taliban to capture American soldiers and puts American lives at increased risk. They also have charged Obama with violating a federal statute requiring the president to inform Congress 30 days before transferring prisoners from Guantanamo. Rice insisted the president was acting within his authority as commander-in-chief when weighing the legal requirement against reports of Bergdahl's failing health.
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Photo of Susan Rice: AP Images