It was apparent to the administration that the Sergeant, named Bowe Berghadi, was in immediate danger or “peril”, according to Hagel.
In a move which goes against standard protocol, the White House acted before notifying Congress of their intentions. A deal was struck which meant that five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay were freed in exchange for Sgt Berghadi. Congress must be informed of the intention to transfer any Guantanamo prisoners 30 days before the transfer.
A decision was made swiftly as it was agreed that 30 days would be too long to be able to guarantee the health and safety of Berghadi, who was apparently captured in 2009. The US Defence Secretary also remarked that doubts about ever being able to secure his release if they had waited a further 30 days, were to the fore.
Military experts and commentators have been outspoken in their criticism of Sgt Berghadi, accusing him of desertion, an offence that can carry the punishment of death (although this has only occurred once previously, in 1945).
Many questions have remained unanswered regarding the circumstances surrounding Berghadi’s disappearance and subsequent capture, although it has been clarified by the Pentagon that he did leave his post and did not have permission to do so.
A homecoming ceremony planned in Berghadi’s home town of Hailey, Idaho has been cancelled due to a large number of complaints and a planned protest, and the US Army has vowed to perform an in-depth investigation into the apparent kidnapping which resulted in Berghadi being the only US Prisoner of War in possession of the Taliban.
Currently Berghadi is being rehabilitated in a German Military Hospital, after finally being freed following five years in captivity. During this time it is alleged that six US military were lost in an attempt to locate and rescue the Sergeant. It is at this time unclear when the AWOL captor will be able to return to his country, and in what capacity he will be able to return in.
Despite desertion being as good as confirmed by the Pentagon, and the mantra “we do not negotiate with terrorists” still ringing in the ears of most who are able to remember as far back as 2001, the US made a big decision to release five apparent terrorists in return for Berghadi. Most experts are currently at a loss as to exactly what the reasons are.