It was one of the worst trades in history, even worse than Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi or Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac: Back in 2014, Barack Obama traded five Taliban commanders for one American who, we were led to believe, had been captured by the Taliban. Obama did all he could to make the swap seem noble: He said at the time that the recovery of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was “a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield,” and the five Taliban jihadis were sent to Qatar, where they would ostensibly be kept out of trouble. Seven years later, Bergdahl is known as a deserter, not a hero: In 2017, he pleaded guilty to desertion and was given a dishonorable discharge. And now Khairullah Khairkhwa, one of the jihadis Obama traded for Bergdahl, is among the Taliban leadership that just took Kabul.
Obama’s deal was fishy from the start. Bergdahl was known as a deserter even at the time the deal was made. Former infantry officer Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan, wrote in the Daily Beast that Bergdahl was “a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.” Refuting reports that Bergdahl got separated from his unit while on patrol, Bethea declared: “Make no mistake: Bergdahl did not ‘lag behind on a patrol,’ as was cited in news reports at the time. There was no patrol that night. Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I’ve talked to members of Bergdahl’s platoon—including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I’ve reviewed the relevant documents. That’s what happened.”
Three days before he deserted, Bergdahl wrote to his parents: “I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.”
Then there was the Taliban’s 2010 claim that Bergdahl had converted to Islam and was teaching bomb-making to its jihadists. Documents revealed in 2014 corroborate the claim. According to one of these documents, dated August 23, 2012, “Conditions for Bergdahl have greatly relaxed since the time of the escape. Bergdahl has converted to Islam and now describes himself as a mujahid. Bergdahl enjoys a modicum of freedom, and engages in target practice with the local mujahedeen, firing AK47s. Bergdahl is even allowed to carry a loaded gun on occasion. Bergdahl plays soccer with his guards and bounds around the pitch like a mad man. He appears to be well and happy, and has a noticeable habit of laughing frequently and saying ‘Salaam’ repeatedly.”
The Obama/Biden administration ignored all this, made the lopsided deal, and treated Bergdahl as a returning hero at a Rose Garden ceremony featuring the deserter’s parents.
Meanwhile, Obama’s own intelligence team warned him that four of the five jihadis he traded for Bergdahl were almost certain to return to the jihad. He ignored this. And so Khairullah Khairkhwa was free to join other Taliban representatives in Qatar in 2019, negotiating the terms of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. During those protracted, fruitless, and foredoomed negotiations, Khairkhwa declared in March 2021: “I started jihad to remove foreign forces from my country and establish an Islamic government, and jihad will continue until we reach that goal through a political agreement.” Or, as things turned out, until Old Joe Biden leaves Afghanistan without bothering to have his military, which was too preoccupied with making sure to enforce woke orthodoxy anyway, prepare a coherent exit strategy that would protect our personnel and get them and our weaponry out of the country safely.
The presence of Khairullah Khairkhwa among the Taliban leadership in Kabul is a vivid illustration of how disastrously wrongheaded, futile, and self-defeating the Left’s foreign policy really is. Jihadis will happily lie to Americans to get what they want, as Obama’s team happily accepted the assurances that the five jihadis freed from Guantanamo for Bergdahl would not return to the jihad. Those jihadis will not see gestures of goodwill as something to be reciprocated, but as signs of weakness in the enemy, a weakness that must be exploited. Now, as the Taliban consolidates its power within Afghanistan and begins to make good on its vow to export its jihad elsewhere, untold numbers of Americans and others will suffer for Obama’s determination to get the traitor Bergdahl back from the Taliban, and to show them what a grand fellow he was by freeing five of their commanders. But preventing the suffering of Americans never seems to have been a high priority for the Obama/Biden team of “experts.”