Critics of the decision to swap Taliban captive Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay accuse President Barack Obama and his officials of violating the long-standing U.S. policy of never negotiating with terrorists. The administration insists that the policy is intact.
The critics are missing the point. On balance, the exchange made sense. It isn't just that a U.S. soldier has been recovered at little net cost to U.S. security interests: The release is part of a broader effort to serve those interests. The administration has long been trying to engage with the Taliban as the U.S. war effort winds down, and rightly so.
It isn't an easy policy to set before the U.S. public, but it's a necessary one. If the U.S.'s exit from Afghanistan is not to end in disaster for the people of that country, there must be some kind of accommodation between their government and the Taliban. By releasing the five Taliban commanders, the administration hoped not just to get Bergdahl back, but also to move that larger process along.