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Swap elicits mixed reactions from senators

Sen. Tim Kaine said Monday that the United States sent a “great message” to active-duty military personnel by negotiating the release of an American prisoner of war in exchange for five high-ranking Taliban detainees.

“I think it is a really important thing that we send a message, if you are in the military and you’re captured, we’re going to move heaven and earth to find you and get you back,” Kaine, D–Va., who has a son in the military, told The Free Lance–Star during a stop at Germanna Community College’s Spotsylvania County campus. “I think sending that message to our active duty is a great message to send.”

Republican leaders in Congress and others have criticized the White House’s decision to swap the Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in 2009 after leaving his unit. Critics have accused the White House of negotiating with terrorists and say the move will embolden Taliban forces.

And some soldiers who served with Bergdahl have labeled him a “deserter.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D–Va., who spoke with The Free Lance–Star during a campaign stop in Stafford County, said he could see both sides of the issue. He said he won’t voice an opinion until the Senate Intelligence Committee is briefed on the issue later this week.

“I’m glad we got an American home, but we’ve got to make sure these people who were released aren’t going to cause danger to America,” said Warner, who said the United States has negotiated the release of prisoners of war before. “I want to get the full facts. I think it is a really tough question.”

State Sen. Bryce Reeves, R–Spotsylvania, issued a press release Saturday thanking those involved in Bergdahl’s release. “As a former Army Ranger, we live by a creed to never leave a comrade on the field of battle,” stated Reeves, who this year sponsored a resolution in the General Assembly supporting continued efforts to secure Bergdahl’s release. Reeves could not be reached Monday for an interview.

Kaine said the message sent by Bergdahl’s release might encourage more people to enlist in the military.

“I am just glad that Sgt. Bergdahl has been released and is coming home, and I think it sends the message to our military that we’re not going to leave anybody behind,” he said.

—Staff writer Vanessa Remmers contributed to this report.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402