A Taliban commander close to the negotiations over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl told TIME Thursday that the deal made to secure Bergdahl’s release has made it more appealing for fighters to capture American soldiers and other high-value targets.
“It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,” the commander said, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.”
The commander has been known to TIME for several years and has consistently supplied reliable information about Bergdahl’s captivity.
The U.S. agreed on May 31 to exchange five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for Bergdahl, America’s only living prisoner of war. Following the deal, the outpouring of relief by those who had long lobbied to “Bring Bowe Home” was soon eclipsed by accusations and recriminations as Republican lawmakers accused the administration of making a dangerous precedent.
White House officials are openly trying to portray the Boko Haram jihad movement as a symbolic obstacle to girls’ educational progress, instead of another murderous Islamist group that could be fought by U.S. forces.
The straight-faced effort to change the subject from jihad to education policy is a reach even for the White House’s media team, partly because the jihadi group has a decade-long history of bombing Christian churches and schools, and killing thousands of Africans.
On May 12, for example, the group paraded more than 100 kidnapped girls who have converted to Islam to escape rape.
The first lady and President Barack Obama are “deeply concerned… about the fate of these girls and broadly concerned about what these girls represent in terms of the power and importance of making sure that girls around the world are educated,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said May. 12.
The roughly 276 girls “are suffering specifically and individually, but they are also suffering on behalf of a broader proposition, which is that whether you’re a girl or a boy, you should have all the rights to education that can be attained in the country in which you live,” he said.
“And I think that’s a principle that obviously the president and first lady support, and it’s a principle that most Americans, I think — I would daresay all Americans support,” he said.
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