Kinzinger 'Shocked' By Release of Taliban for Bergdahl

Sunday, 01 Jun 2014 02:08 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the release of five mid-to-high level Taliban fighters in exchange for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is "shocking" to him.

"There are a lot of questions why he got captured," Kinzinger said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "So I'm going to celebrate him coming home, [but] the release of five mid-to-high level Taliban is shocking to me, especially without coming to Congress."

The Illinois Republican said that by law, Congress must be notified in such cases, and the exchange put five people "potentially back on the battlefield."

And even though troops are being pulled out of Afghanistan in 2016, Kinzinger said, he still believes it is shocking that the president is going along with a timeline like he did with Iraq.

"You now are going to have five people potentially on the ground targeting American troops, Afghan troops, and the Afghan people," said Kinzinger. "There are a lot of questions that need to be asked. This whole exchange is shocking to me and I'm very disappointed."

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America appeared on the segment along with Kinzinger, and said his group wants to welcome Bergdahl home.

"We have to underscore that point," Rieckhoff said. "This guy has been in captivity for five years. Most of America forgot his name or never knew it to begin with. An important message has been sent, we will come for you. If you are captured, America will come for you. That's an important message to send to our troops.

Rieckhoff and Kinzinger also discussed the ongoing Veterans Affairs scandal, with Rieckhoff saying the government needs to "clean house" following Friday's resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

"The VA has a systemic problem, so we need a total turnaround," said Rieckhoff. "It's a defining moment for the president. Who we name now will be key. It's unfortunate we didn't have somebody ready, given the scandal took four weeks."

Kinzinger said he does not understand Shinseki's claims that he did not know what was going on with the VA clinics and the problem with fake wait lists being created.

"A good leader knows what his subordinates are doing, and if he doesn't have control over his subordinates, he really gets in there and figures it out," Kinzinger said. "I don't want to impugn the reputation of Gen. Shinseki, he was a great guy, but I thought it was time for him to go to get new blood in there."

Further, Kinzinger said, he wants to "see people fired. I want to see people prosecuted by the law for those that created this secret waiting list. That's what we have to do next. Clean house, as Paul said."

The Illinois lawmaker also wants veterans waiting for care to be able to see a private doctor.

"We have to get dead serious on this," he said. "This is the beginning of taking control."

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