WASHINGTON: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said threats by the five freed Taliban prisoners swapped for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to return to war and kill Americans are “a lot of baloney.”
Defending the swap that secured the release of the last American prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Kerry said the movements of the five Taliban prisoners released to Qatar will be closely monitored.
“No one should doubt the capacity of America to protect Americans,” Kerry said from France in a taped interview for CNN’s “State of the Union” program today.
Bergdahl, held captive for almost five years, was released May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held by the U.S. at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. The deal requires the five men remain in Qatar for at least a year.
“They’re not the only ones keeping an eye on them,” Kerry said of the Qataris, while declining to elaborate.
“We have proven what we are capable of doing with al- Qaeda,” he said.
The threats by the Taliban prisoners to resume fighting in Afghanistan and kill Americans amount to propaganda, Kerry said. “They’ll say whatever they want to stir the waters,” he said.
With the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan coming to an end and most troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2016, opportunities for Taliban to kidnap Americans will dwindle, Kerry said.
Whether or not Bergdahl deserted his post in eastern Afghanistan, as some of his former fellow soldiers claim, “it would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind,” Kerry said.
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and former Vietnam prisoner of war, criticized the deal on the same program.
The five Taliban prisoners “were evaluated and judged as too great a risk to release,” McCain said.
“I’m sad to tell you I’m afraid they’re going to re-enter the fight,” he said.