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Hearing of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee and the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committtee - The Bergdahl Exchange: Implications for U.S. National Security and the Fight Against Terrorism

Hearing

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

"I thank the witnesses for being with us -- especially Mr. Andrews whose son, Darryn Deen, was killed in Afghanistan in 2009 and Mr. Full and Mr. Waltz, thank you for your service.

Mr. Andrews, I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose a child in the service of our nation; but as the stepmother of a U.S. Marine aviator who served in Iraq and a mother-in-law to another Marine aviator who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I know the sleepless nights and the constant worry that parents face when their child or loved ones are constantly in harm's way. Our country owes our brave men and women who have served, and who have earned our gratitude, a debt that can never be repaid, but it must start with being completely forthcoming with them.

In late 2011 -- while I was Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- the Administration gathered the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the pertinent national security committees, as well as Congressional Leadership, to brief us on a potential prisoner swap of Taliban terrorists for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. The meeting was classified, news reports from just earlier this month indicate that the Administration had a team of officials from the National Security Council, Pentagon, State Department, CIA, Director of National Intelligence, present the Administration's plan to us.

At the time of the briefing, using all available information given to me, I was adamantly opposed to the proposed swap, said so at the meeting, as were many of my colleagues -- my opinion has not changed, as more information has been revealed.

I opposed the swap not because I did not want to bring Bowe home -- it's important to have him home and out of the hands of the Taliban; I opposed the swap because the proposal would have resulted in a huge coup for the Taliban, would have benefited them, jeopardized the safety and security of our brave men and women in uniform, and compromised our national security interests. With so many of our colleagues expressing our disapproval of the swap, the Administration seemed to have gotten the message and dropped its exchange plan -- or so we thought.

Then earlier this month, I, like the rest of my Congressional colleagues and the American public, read the news that the Administration had swapped five Taliban commanders for the Sergeant. Despite its promises to notify Congress -- not to mention its legal obligation to do so -- the Administration kept this deal secret and acted unilaterally. The deal is precisely the reason for the legal mandate that Congress be given 30 days notice -- because the Administration has a proven track record of overstepping and abusing its authority.

As we've already seen the Taliban use this to its benefit, using the videotape of the exchange as propaganda and as a recruitment video, and it has only emboldened them further. Not only that, but despite the agreement with the Government of Qatar -- which by the way is only for 1 year -- to supervise these five Taliban high level operatives, there are no assurances that they won't be back in the fight in short order and orchestrating attacks from their lavish new headquarters in Doha.

The fact that we are placing our hopes in Qatar, a country that has been full throated in its support for the Muslim Brotherhood -- especially in Egypt, where Qatar's support for the Brotherhood actively worked against our interests in seeing a democratic transition there -- will likely further strain our already damaged ties with our traditional partners in the Gulf.

This may have serious implications for our national security objectives, especially as it relates to our efforts in Iran. But this swap is more than just Bowe Bergdahl, or the Taliban -- it's about U.S. national security, the safety of our men and women in uniform and it's about the Administration's disregard for the law and the contempt it holds for its obligations to Congress.

The Administration's deal to swap five senior Taliban officials for the Sergeant has far reaching implications: negotiating, and ultimately forging a deal with Taliban terrorists unnecessarily endangers all of the servicemen and women who are operating in war zones right now that these five senior Taliban operatives are likely to rejoin the fight; and it also inspires the Taliban and other terrorist groups to conduct abductions of our Armed Services personnel -- as we have already seen one Taliban commander admit that the Taliban is now encouraged by the results of the Bergdahl trade.

Then of course there are the questions of the legality of the Administration's unilateral decision and the frustration level and lack of trust that Congress has with the Administration as a result of this swap.

There are many, many unanswered questions, Mr. Chairman, that the Administration still needs to answer, but for today, it's important that we have the opportunity to hear from some of the people and how this decision has impacted them personally: those who served in Afghanistan, fighting side by side with their fellow soldier; those servicemen and women who may have been placed even further in harm's way as a result of this exchange; and those who lost a loved one in Afghanistan -- they deserve to be heard and they deserve the truth.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for your time."


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