Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. initially rejected releasing Taliban fighters in a prisoner exchange for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
In a memoir to be released tomorrow, Clinton writes about early negotiations that eventually led to Bergdahl’s release May 31 after five years of captivity in a swap for five Taliban prisoners held by the U.S. at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. A copy of her book, “Hard Choices,” was purchased by Bloomberg News at a Chicago store.
“The Taliban’s top concern seemed to be the fate of its fighters being held in Guantanamo Bay and other prisons,” Clinton writes. “In every discussion about prisoners, we demanded the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.”
Clinton goes on to write that “there would not be any agreement with the Taliban about prisoners without the sergeant coming home.”
The potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate also outlines skepticism in the administration about releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay.
“The Taliban still wanted their fighters released from Guantanamo, but that was not a step we were willing to take yet,” she writes about negotiations in 2011.
During a June 2 appearance in Colorado, Clinton said she didn’t want to “second guess” President Barack Obama’s decision to executive the prisoner swap.
“We do have a tradition and I ascribe to it; it’s a tradition that I think is not only one embedded in our military, but in our country, and that is we try not to leave any of our soldiers on the field,” she said during a lecture in Broomfield, Colorado, outside of Denver.
“I believe that the important issue now is to do what’s being done for Sergeant Bergdahl, which is to try to restore his health, mental and physical. I’m sure that at some point, maybe not yet, but at some point he will undergo very specific, deep debriefings, because he was with the Taliban for five years,” she said.
The release of the prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl has upset some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Democrats.
Clinton, 66, has said she’ll make a decision on a White House run by the end of this year or early next year. Polls of Democrats show she has a huge lead over the party’s other 2016 prospects.
“I also know that the most important questions anyone considering running must answer are not ’Do you want to be President’ or ’Can you win?’” she writes in the book. “They are ’What’s your vision for America?’ and ’Can you lead us there?’ The challenge is to lead in a way that unites us again and renews the American Dream. That’s the bar, and it’s a high one.”
While delaying a decision on a presidential bid, Clinton already has the backing of an experienced fundraising team, veteran voter-turnout specialists from Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and endorsements from some well-known Democrats.
Ready for Hillary, a super-political action committee based in a Virginia suburb outside Washington, has raised $5.7 million from about 55,000 donors since it was set up last year. The money has helped create what amounts to the most robust campaign infrastructure so far among any of the Democrats who might run in 2016.
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