WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) – Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin blasted President Barack Obama on her Facebook page Monday about Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdhal, who was released this weekend in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees after five years of captivity in Afghanistan.
Palin explained that Obama should have never praised Bergdhal. She wrote on her page, “No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs – even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot – is not ‘honorable service.’ Unless that is your standard.”
The former Alaskan governor was referring to a reported email that the soldier sent to his parents, which late journalist Michael Hastings had published in a 2012 Rolling Stone article.
“Please use your White House Rose Garden to praise the truly honorable service of our good U.S. troops who were killed in their search for Sgt. Bergdahl,” Palin wrote in her Facebook post. “Praise the soldiers who fought with everything they had to defeat Islamic terrorists, those whom you just freed from prison. Our men gave all. Our surviving combat vets will forever live with the effects of the missions they willingly engaged in to protect you, our country, and certainly their brothers and sisters who are proud to wear the uniform.”
Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. special operations forces by the Taliban Saturday evening, local time, in an area of eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, officials said. In a statement, the Taliban said Bergdahl was handed over on the outskirts of Khost province.
Officials said the exchange was not violent and the 28-year-old Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk.
“While Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten,” President Barack Obama said in a statement from the White House Rose Garden, where he was joined by Bergdahl’s parents. “The United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”
Bergdahl’s handover followed indirect negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban, with the government of Qatar serving as the go-between. Qatar is taking custody of the five Afghan detainees who were held at Guantanamo.
Several dozen U.S. special operations forces, backed by multiple helicopters and surveillance aircraft, flew into Afghanistan by helicopter and made the transfer with the approximately 18 Taliban members. Officials said the commandos were on the ground for a short time before lifting off with Bergdahl.
According to a senior defense official, once Bergdahl climbed onto the noisy helicopter, he took a pen and wrote on a paper plate, “SF?” — asking the troops if they were special operations forces.
They shouted back at him over the roar of the rotors: “Yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time.”
Then, according to the official, Bergdahl broke down.
Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, is believed to have been held by the Haqqani network since June 30, 2009. Haqqani operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and has been one of the deadliest threats to U.S. troops in the war.
The network, which the State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, claims allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, yet operates with some degree of autonomy.
The U.S. believes Bergdahl was held for the bulk of his captivity time in Pakistan, but officials said it was not clear when he was transported to eastern Afghanistan.
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