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2014-06-12

- My View - Letting the Taliban win - deserter debate obscures real issues in Bergdahl case

By Dr. Jeffrey Addicott

By Dr. Jeffrey Addicott
Director Center for Terrorism Law
St. Mary's University

There's currently debate - as the details from the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan come to light - as to whether Bergdahl was a deserter who willfully complicated the American mission in Afghanistan, or if indeed was a soldier who served his country with "honor and distinction," as National Security Advisor Susan Rice asserts.
Whether he's a deserter or not is immaterial to the latest episode in President Obama's woeful policy in Afghanistan. The narrative Obama wants to impress upon the history books is that the country became stable following the 2010 "surge" that brought 100,000 troops to Afghanistan, and by doing so, Obama did what George W. Bush was unable to do. And yet, this is a fiction of the worst order.
In reality, the Taliban is stronger after the Obama surge than it was before it, at the expense of more than 1,000 killed or wounded American soldiers.
Those who naively believe that negotiations with totalitarian voices can achieve must realize that, all along, the Obama Administration has sought to negotiate with the Taliban in "peace talks," regardless of whether Bergdahl was in captivity. But the Taliban had always refused to release Bergdahl, insisted on the release of the five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.
So, with Obama announcing a withdrawal from Afghanistan last week, he authorized the deal - not over concern for Bergdahl's well-being, but with concern about negotiating some deal with the Taliban to attempt to keep them in check.
And so, with the confirmation of the long-touted, pre-announced withdrawal this year of American combat forces, it's obvious that the Taliban will increase attacks on American forces and support personnel as we withdraw. This will advance their narrative that they were successful in driving the Americans out.
Indeed, the Taliban will certainly declare victory over the American "infidels" and thousands will flock to their banner. They are already doing their victory dance. Bergdahl was simply a means to an end to "negotiate" with the Taliban - which will never be a winning proposition for the United States.