WASHINGTON -- Questions still surround the deal to free Hailey native Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The questions raised by Republicans and Democrats in Congress have to do with the timing of it.
Tuesday, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) spoke at an event hosted by the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. He wondered if it was wise to release the five Taliban leaders while the U.S. still has forces in Afghanistan. But he did admit while the war winds down, that some Guantanamo detainees will have to be released.
Some of them are going to be prosecuted if they have committed prosecutable acts, said Labrador. Some of them are being detained under different classifications. And some of them are going to have to be released if we don't have any actionable intelligence on them. The question really is, 'Should these five have been released at this time?'
That was the main question Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faced Wednesday in front of the House Armed Services Committee. Hagel said the exchange had to be made quickly, since any leak may have wrecked the deal. In fact, he says U.S. officials were warned by the intermediaries in Qatar that time was not on their side, the risk to Bergdahl was growing, and if they wanted him back, it was now or never.
For all these reasons and more, the exchange needed to take place quickly, efficiently and quietly, said Hagel. We believed this exchange was our last best opportunity to free him.
As far as Bergdahl himself, Hagel said the U.S. Army will review the exchange, circumstance, and captivity of the sergeant, which will include talking to the Hailey native. He says, until that's done, it's unfair to judge Bergdahl or his family.
Like most Americans I've been offended and disappointed in how the Bergdahl family has been treated by some in this country. No family deserves this, said Hagel. I think I need not remind anyone on this committee, like any American, Sgt. Bergdahl has rights and his conduct will be judged on the facts - not political hearsay, posturing, charges or innuendo.
Tuesday, Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador somewhat aligned with that aspect of Hagel's testimony. While Labrador remains critical of how the administration handled the exchange, he thinks it's way too early for him or anyone to criticize Bergdahl.
I don't think we should criticize the sergeant right now, said Labrador. We don't know all the details of why he left, whether he left voluntarily. And I think we should be very careful as members of Congress to not escalate the rhetoric that leads to Americans trying to decide what happened in this case.
Right now, Hagel said Bergdahl has not been charged with any misconduct.