Thursday, June 5, 2014

Idaho: Update--City Administratior Heather Dawnson, Hailey, ID, Population 7,920, Cancels Homecoming for Bowe Bergdahl

According to Reuters, the political uproar over the prisoner swap that won the release of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity intensified on Wednesday (June 4) when his hometown canceled plans for a rally celebrating his return amidst allegations that Bergdahl deserted.

The Taliban released video of their handover of Bergdahl to US special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border on Saturday (May 31). 

Bergdahl's release after being held for nearly five years in Afghanistan provoked an angry backlash in Congress among lawmakers over the Obama Administration's failure to notify them in advance. Some of Bergdahl's former comrades have charged that he was captured after deserting.

Worse, according to media reports, six members of Bergdahl's unit were killed in their efforts to rescue the soldier.  

COMMENT: Heather Dawson, the city administrator of Hailey, Idaho, said that town officials had called off their June 28 rally to celebrate Bergdahl's release because they would be "unable to safely manage the number of people expected." 

Ms. Dawson, no doubt, could hardly have described the homecoming any differently, given how divided Americans are on Begdahl's apparent walking away from his unit without his rifle in hand. 

The small mountain community had been under pressure to cancel after claims by some of Bergdahl's former Army comrades that he had deliberately abandoned his post.

That anger helped fuel congressional criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the deal to free Bergdahl in exchange for the transfer of five senior Taliban members from Guantanamo prison in Cuba to Qatar, where they were to remain free for a year.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a top Republican who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, condemned the deal.

US lawmakers complained that the Obama Administration did not give Congress 30 days notice required by law before transferring Guantanamo prisoners. They also expressed concern that the five were senior leaders who may well return to the battlefield. 

The White House, surprised by the angry backlash, has taken steps to try to address congressional anger over its failure to give lawmakers proper notice, offering apologies and briefings. 

What is most interesting is that even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was unaware that six Army soldier were killed in their effort to rescue Bergdahl.

It is assumed that President Obama did not request notification of Congress beforehand because he knew the "deal" would not be approved. 

Bergdahl disappeared from his outpost in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, leaving behind his gear, including his issued weapon, suggesting that he may have intended to join the Taliban.

General Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, said on Wednesday the Army would conduct a full review of his capture at the appropriate time.

The US State Department said it would look into reports by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS that the family of a US woman who disappeared in Afghanistan in 2012 with her Canadian husband had received two videos of the couple last year asking the US government to help win their release from the Taliban:

http://stayingsafeabroad.blogspot.com/2013/02/afghanistan-update-october-2012

Caitlan Coleman was pregnant at the time of her disappearance along with her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, the AP said. The family decided to make the videos public in light of the publicity surrounding Bergdahl's release.