Tom Cotton: Obama’s Decision to Release Five Taliban Commanders Will Cost American Lives

The GOP’s Arkansas Senate nominee harshly criticizes the president’s handling of the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap.

National Journal
Josh Kraushaar
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Josh Kraushaar
June 3, 2014, 10:24 a.m.

Tom Cot­ton, an Ir­aq War vet­er­an and GOP Sen­ate can­did­ate in Arkan­sas, harshly cri­ti­cized the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for its hand­ling of the Bowe Ber­g­dahl pris­on­er swap on an Arkan­sas-based ra­dio pod­cast Tues­day morn­ing, call­ing it a “griev­ous er­ror” from the pres­id­ent that puts Amer­ic­an troops at risk.

“There is now a price on the head of Amer­ic­an host­ages, and Barack Obama has helped put that price there by break­ing with a dec­ade­long bi­par­tis­an con­sensus,” Cot­ton told host J.R. Dav­is.

“Even if Bowe Ber­g­dahl had been cap­tured hero­ic­ally on the bat­tle­field, it would still be bad policy, be­cause now it in­creases the danger that all 32,000 Amer­ic­an troops in Afgh­anistan face, or for that mat­ter our aid work­ers or our dip­lo­mats there or any Amer­ic­an trav­el­ing around the world on busi­ness or tour­ism,” Cot­ton con­tin­ued.

Cot­ton, cit­ing me­dia re­ports that Ber­g­dahl was a desert­er, sug­ges­ted that the pres­id­ent and Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­viser Susan Rice may have covered up de­tails about the swap. “The pres­id­ent and his seni­or lead­er­ship needs to ac­count for what they knew about the cir­cum­stances about Bowe Ber­g­dahl’s dis­ap­pear­ance and when they knew it. And wheth­er they tried to cov­er it up from the Amer­ic­an people to sell the griev­ous mis­take of this pris­on­er swap.”

Asked what he would do in Obama’s po­s­i­tion, Cot­ton said: “I wouldn’t have traded five seni­or Taliban com­mand­ers for any POW. I would have con­tin­ued to use in­tel­li­gence re­sources and spe­cial op­er­a­tions units to try to re­trieve Bowe Ber­g­dahl, or any POW for that mat­ter. But I would not re­lease seni­or hardened Taliban com­mand­ers. These are not goat her­ders or foot sol­diers. These are the equi­val­ent of their sec­ret­ary of De­fense or their CIA dir­ect­or. They are go­ing to go back in the bat­tle­field. That is go­ing to hap­pen. And they’re go­ing to help kill Amer­ic­ans in the fu­ture.”

Cot­ton is one of the GOP’s lead­ing Sen­ate re­cruits in 2014, with his bio­graphy play­ing a ma­jor part in his cam­paign as he chal­lenges Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Pry­or. Cot­ton is a fa­vor­ite among Re­pub­lic­an hawks who ad­voc­ate for a more as­sert­ive Amer­ic­an role over­seas.

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