Whether or not Obama made a huge political gaffe by secretly arranging the Qatar-mediated exchange of Bowe Bergdahl, who some 16,000 Americans have petitioned should be court-martialed for walking away from his post in 2009, for 5 Taliban leaders remains to be seen. To be sure republicans have jumped on the blunder and especially the hawks within the GOP are now "tag-teaming" the issues of Benghazi and Bergdahl with the intent of painting will Obama "as an appeaser, and a negotiator-with-terrorists" as The Nation reports. In any case, if Obama was hoping to use the Bergdahl exchange as a marker of successful foreign policy, he is suddenly caught flat-footed.
What won't help the president's case of promptly sweeping this latest scandal under the rug, is a clip such as this one, released earlier today by the Taliban showing the handover of the prisoner of war to US forces.
The video, as the WSJ reports, shows Sgt. Bergdahl with a shaved head and no eyebrows. He is wearing Afghan clothing, looking gaunt and dazed, rapidly blinking his eyes. In the footage, Sgt. Bergdahl sits in a white Taliban pickup truck in an open field, as a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter prepares to land.
In the video, an Afghan insurgent, his face hidden by a scarf, tells Sgt. Bergdahl menacingly in Pashto moments before the release: "Don't come back to Afghanistan. Next time we catch you, you won't leave here alive." Armed insurgents surrounding the pickup truck laugh as Sgt. Bergdahl bows his head, looking confused and scared.
"Long live the holy warriors of Afghanistan! Long live the great holy warrior and the leader of the believers, Mullah Mohammad Omar !" the insurgents chant, referring to the Taliban leader who has eluded U.S. capture since 2001.
The video released earlier today is shown below:
As the WSJ adds, the footage of Taliban leaders arriving in Qatar is in stark contrast to the images of Sgt. Bergdahl's release. In Qatar, the former Guantanamo detainees are seen in crisp, clean clothing, embracing Taliban officials on the side of a road and driving in a convoy of new SUVs, including a Porsche. Sgt. Bergdahl, in contrast, appears guarded and scared, his thin frame surrounded by heavily armed insurgents.
The released former Guantanamo detainees include the pre-2001 Taliban regime's deputy minister of intelligence, Mohammed Fazl, and deputy minister of defense, Abdul Haq Wasiq.
Who precisely did Afghanistan get in exchange for Bergdahl? The following 5 individuals: