Top Congressional Republicans have raised sharp questions about President Barack Obama's deal to swap five Taliban members for a captured US solder, with some even accusing him of breaking the law. Several opposition Republicans issued statements welcoming Saturday's release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. But several Republicans also claimed that his exchange for "terrorists" held in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre would just encourage more kidnappings of US soldiers. Lawmakers were not told of the Guantanamo prisoner transfer until after the swap, the Washington Post reported.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit Sunday, a US defence official said, following the release of soldier Bowe Bergdahl after five years in Taliban captivity. Hagel arrived at Bagram Airfield, a US-controlled vast military base north of Kabul, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bergdahl's release in exchange for five senior Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay has been hailed as a breakthrough for peace efforts by a senior member of Afghanistan's High Peace Counil. Hagel's trip comes a week after President Barack Obama made a surprise trip to hail the sacrifices of US soldiers in Afghanistan as combat troops prepare to pull out by the end of this year.
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the military operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees was not relayed to Congress because officials believed the soldier's life was in danger.
Bagram Airfield (Afghanistan) (AFP) - US troops in Afghanistan expressed relief on Sunday over the release of their fellow soldier, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, even as they voiced misgivings that his freedom came in a swap for Taliban militants. To ensure troops stayed on the lookout for Bergdahl, commanders had installed a screen saver on every American soldier's computer in Afghanistan that carried a photo of the captured sergeant as a reminder. But Bergdahl, held by insurgents for nearly five years, was never spotted by American forces or rescued in a raid. Instead, his freedom was brokered by Qatar in a swap that required the United States to transfer five Taliban detainees out of the Guantanamo prison.
Iran on Sunday hanged a man said to be affiliated to an exiled opposition group, state media reported, despite international pressure on the Islamic republic to halt the execution. According to the official IRNA news agency, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani was convicted of "waging war against God" (moharebeh) by helping the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI). The announcement of the hanging came just hours after Amnesty International said Khosravi Savadjani's trial in 2010 had been unfair. Khosravi Savadjani was until then being held in solitary confinement at Evin Prison in the capital.
The release of five senior Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl bodes well for the resumption of peace talks, a senior member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council said Sunday. But despite the Taliban's "great happiness" over the prisoners' release, a spokesman for the militant group cautioned the exchange was "not political". The five prisoners were named as Mohammad Fazl, Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq, all influential former officials of the Taliban regime driven out of power in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.
Israel has denied three future Palestinian ministers from the Gaza Strip entry to the West Bank ahead of the unveiling of a new unity government, public radio said on Sunday. The head of Israel's military administration in the Palestinian territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, had informed the Palestinians that the three would not be permitted to cross from Gaza to the West Bank, the radio said. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Saturday that the line-up of a unity government would be announced Monday, following a delay over who would head the foreign ministry. He also said Israel had informed the Palestinians that it would "boycott the government".
By Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama heads to Warsaw, Brussels, Paris and Normandy this week where he is expected to elaborate on the U.S. commitment to counter Russian moves against Ukraine and reassure nervous allies the United States has their backs. In Poland, Ukraine's western neighbor, Obama meets with Eastern European leaders - including Ukraine's president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, on Wednesday - and is expected to address criticism he has not done enough to push back against Moscow after it annexed Crimea in March.
By Jeff Mason WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in Republican-leaning states have a simple strategy for dealing with President Barack Obama's upcoming power plant restrictions before the mid-term elections: Fight them, with the White House's blessing. The new rules, popular with the Democratic Party's base, are one of Obama's highest domestic priorities for his second term. But they are complicating the lives of Democrats in coal and oil-rich states such as West Virginia, Louisiana and Alaska, where candidates are piling on the president and the Environmental Protection Agency for proposing restrictions that could cost jobs locally. So, the White House is turning a blind eye to attacks from within the party, despite the importance of the regulations to Obama's agenda and post-presidential legacy.