Five members of the Taliban freed in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will “presumably” go back to fight for the extremist group, the former head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said on Sunday.
“The five that are back, presumably they’ll go back to the battlefield, but it won’t change the dynamics,” former Gen. Stanley McChrystal said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s not going to change the balance of the effort with five guys.”
On Monday, the travel ban ends for those five Taliban leaders, the so-called “Taliban Five,” who had been held in captivity at Guantanamo Bay until the Obama administration stuck a deal to trade them for Bergdahl last May. Since then, they have been housed and kept under watch in Qatar.
The looming deadline has renewed political tensions around the tradeoff. While many Republicans initially criticized the Obama administration for not doing enough to secure Bergdahl’s release after five years in Taliban captivity, many have lambasted him for unilaterally freeing the five Taliban leaders.
On Sunday, McChrystal seemed to downplay their importance, and declined to condemn the deal.
“They were in captivity for a while — they’re not going to go back to a key operational role,” he said. “I say ‘presume’ because you have to assume the worst case in a case like this.”
In March, Bergdahl was charged with desertion and could face life in prison.
It would be “hard to make a judgment” about the merits of the prisoner swap, McChrystal said.
“That’s an American soldier, so getting him back to me is a pretty sacred responsibility.”