Response to Episode 10 of Serial 2

National and international politics greatly influenced Bergdahl’s case. The Taliban didn’t want peace talks, Pakistan wanted peace talks but continued to stay out of the situation, and the United States sat with their hands tied, not signing anything or talking peace with anyone. There were various other situations going on with Afghanistan, too, at the time Bergdahl’s case became relevant when it was announced he was going to return home after spending five years in captivity by the Taliban. There were many factors, political gains, to Bergdahl’s release, in exchange for prisoners from Guantanamo. Three of the men in Gitmo were released, but one had died while exercising. This is an important international relations step, and it brings up so many questions as to what the United States is willing to risk on one man.

The United States wouldn’t give some prisoners amnesty, refusing to give amnesty to and negotiating with terrorists, like the Taliban. The United States is known for searching for and finding their men, not dealing with terrorists. This makes the prisoner exchange for Bergdahl incredibly unique and extremely unusual. The United States doesn’t want to be known for working with terrorists, for giving them easy ways out, so they usually didn’t. Why this man? Why this soldier that had abandoned his stationed position in Afghanistan? Peace talks and negotiations were already impossible; the Taliban were told not to call their office “Islamic Emirates,” but they did anyway with a sign and a flag. The flag was removed immediately and the sign was taken down later the next day because a U.S. personnel went in to ensure it was taken down. This destroyed all the previous talks. If they couldn’t even follow an agreement to name an office, why would they follow through on an exchange mission? And after being disrespected in such a way, why would the United States agree to exchange their prisoners? It just doesn’t make any sense.

At the time of the sign ordeal, Bergdahl had been held captive for four years. When negotiations stopped, Bergdahl still had that following year in captivity before the government would finally agree to a trade with the Taliban. For three of their men, the United States only received Bergdahl back. It seems like a heavy price to pay, extraordinary measures that sound borderline insane. It got to a point where the Taliban simply said an exchange would be fine, still refusing peace talks, when the United States was ready. The United States was about to start withdrawing troops, so their window of opportunity to get Bergdahl back was withering. The United States’s hands were tied, but it doesn’t make sense why a man that left his post, a man that was disliked by so many U.S. military personnel, would be worthy of an exchange of that magnitude, or even an exchange at all.

What is interesting is that Bergdahl was seen as a soldier with “honor and distinction,” according to the White House administration, but everyone else thought it wasn’t right to speak so highly of him. The United States didn’t want to leave a man behind, so maybe that made it easier for them to decide that they wanted to make an exchange deal with the Taliban; at the end of the day, he was an American soldier who they didn’t want to die in captivity…but it seems like an unfair exchange: the Taliban was getting weary with Bergdahl’s captivity. Predient Obama had wanted to close Guantanamo, but it wasn’t as serious as the Taliban growing tired of holding their prisoner captive. Had they waited and not made the deal, perhaps the Taliban would have just let Bergdahl go. Of course, after five years, they probably would have killed him. Maybe the deal, although as insane as it seems, was a fair move after all.

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