WASHINGTON — Top Obama administration officials pushed back Sunday against Republican criticism that a deal freeing the last American held prisoner in Afghanistan could allow dangerous Taliban leaders to return to the fight, might encourage terrorist groups to seize American hostages and possibly violated a law requiring notification of Congress.
Susan E. Rice, the president’s national security adviser, spoke a day after years of fitful negotiations had finally yielded the release in Afghanistan of the prisoner, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. The deal, brokered with Qatari help, also freed five high-level Taliban members from the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as a dangerous transgression of long-standing policy against negotiating with terror groups.
“If you negotiate here, you’ve sent a message to every Al Qaeda group in the world — by the way, some who are holding US hostages today — that there is some value now in that hostage in a way that they didn’t have before,” Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He added, “That is dangerous.”
But Rice said: “Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. 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 are taken in battle, and we did that in this instance.” She was speaking on ABC’s “This Week.”
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