Just one day after a leading Republican warned that further releases of prisoners from the U.S. prison on Guantanamo Bay could lead to calls for his impeachment, President Barack Obama said Thursday he has “no apologies” for trading five high-level Taliban members for the return of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for the past five years.
“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents, and that the American people understand that this is somebody’s child, and that we don’t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back,” Obama said during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Brussels.
Republican leaders have continued to criticize the release of the Taliban leaders in a prisoner exchange arranged through the mediation of the government of Qatar, which has given assurances to the United States that the released prisoners will be kept under surveillance in that country for one year. Republicans have raised concerns that the “worst of the worst” Taliban leaders will eventually rejoin the terrorist network in Afghanistan and pose an increased danger to American troops, some of whom are expected to be there through the end of 2016.
Obama has also been faulted for violating a law requiring a notification to Congress 30 days or more before any prisoner held at Guantanamo is released. Senator Lindsey Graham (shown), a South Carolina Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that any further releases without notice could prompt calls for impeachment in the Republican-controlled House.
“It’s going to be impossible for them to flow prisoners out of Gitmo now without a huge backlash,” said Graham, who served as a House prosecutor during former President Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial. “There will be people on our side calling for his impeachment if he did that.”