BARACK Obama is facing a growing backlash over a deal with the Taleban to free a US prisoner of war, with critics saying it set a dangerous precedent and would lead to more terrorist abductions.
Republicans said they were “deeply concerned” and claimed that the five mujaheddin freed from Guantanamo Bay could rejoin the fight against the West now they are out.
Former military comrades of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl also said they were furious that six soldiers’ lives had been lost in the months-long search for him because he was a “deserter”.
Sgt Bergdahl’s release has split public opinion in America down the middle because he reportedly left his post voluntarily.
However, his supporters and family in his home town of Hailey, Idaho, say he has endured five years of confinement that has left him barely able to speak English, and that he has suffered enough.
Sgt Bergdahl was 23 when he vanished from his base in Paktika province on Afghanistan’s frontier with Pakistan in June 2009. Now aged 28, he is being treated at a military hospital in Germany before he flies back home to a growing row and many unanswered questions.
On Monday, House armed services committee chairman Buck McKeon said that he planned to hold hearings on the matter and get to the bottom of what happened.
He added that he felt the president “broke the law” because he did not consult Congress about the release of inmates of Guantanamo Bay, as he is obliged to do under the 2014 National Defence Authorisation Act.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas said: “Now we make deals with terrorists. And the question going forward is, have we just put a price on other US soldiers?
“What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a US soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists we’ve gone after?”
Among military personnel there is also growing outrage, and a Facebook page called “Bowe Bergdahl is NOT a hero!” attracted more than 5,400 members.
A White House petition to punish Sgt Bergdahl for being absent without leave attracted nearly 2,000 online signatures as details emerged which called into question his commitment to his unit.
Before his disappearance, Sgt Bergdahl sent home boxes containing his uniform and wrote an e-mail to his parents which read: “I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools.”
US defence secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment on reports that the sergeant had walked away from his unit, disillusioned with the war. Such matters “will be dealt with later”, Hagel said.
Among the six men who apparently died while searching for Sgt Bergdahl was Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, 34, a father of two.
His family claim there has been a “cover up” because they had been told different stories about how their son died.
Lt Andrews’ father Andy said: “For his family it’s good to get him back but we will never be able to get our son back because of the actions of this guy.”