DEBATE: Prisoner of War vs. Negotiating with Terrorists - KMSP-TV

DEBATE: Prisoner of War vs. Negotiating with Terrorists

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The Taliban's release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has sparked an interesting national debate: Was he a prisoner of war or did the United States just negotiate with terrorists?

Members of Congress are upset that they weren't consulted on the deal beforehand, but the controversial negotiations had apparently been going on for a while.

The secret talks originally centered around some kind of broad peace accord with the Taliban in Afghanistan, with the Emir of Qatar acting as a go-between; however, in the last few months, it became a straight prisoner swap.

How a person views the exchange depends a great deal on how they view America's longest war, but to his family, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a hero -- period.

MORE: Free soldier's parents say they're proud of son

To the White House, Bergdahl is a 5-year prisoner of war.

"The United States does not leave our men and women in uniform behind," Jay Carney said.

To some in Congress, Bergdahl is a pawn in the war on terror, with some lawmakers openly criticizing the decision.

"This is really not a good idea to open up and end a chapter of American history where we don't negotiate with terrorists," Rep. Mike Rogers said.

After wandering away from his Afghan Army unit 5 years ago, Berdahl was captured by the Taliban and held in near-solitary confinement until his release this past weekend. The U.S. struck a deal that exchanged his freedom for the release of 5 Taliban militants held in Guantanamo Bay who must now stay in Qatar for at least a year.

Sen. John McCain, himself a prisoner of war, said the U.S. may have set a dangerous precedent with the agreement.

"I'm very concerned about these peoples' ability to become instant heroes to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and be able to -- as others have -- assume positions of leadership which puts Americans' lives in danger," he said.

Retired foreign service officer Bill Davnie worked in Afghanistan and Iraq during the surge.

"This is not John McCain climbing on a plane with other PoWs," he said. "You're often dealing with people you don't like very much, but they get things done."

Unlike previous wars, Davnie says the battle lines are ambiguous, the tactics are asymmetrical, and enemies -- like the Taliban -- are both combatants and terrorists.

"We are fighting them in Afghanistan as a war," Davnie said. "I think this is a prisoner of war situation and we work to get prisoners of war returned."

As for Bergdahl, he is recuperating at a hospital in Germany and is still struggling to speak English. He may have difficulty defining himself even as others try to do it for him.

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