U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Critics attack soldier swap

Critics attack soldier swap

The release of America's only prisoner of war in Afghanistan in a trade for five senior Taliban commanders from U.S. custody took only minutes Saturday. But it followed 31/2 years of secret on-and-off negotiations that produced far less than the White House had hoped.

The idea of swapping prisoners emerged in early 2011, administration and congressional officials said Tuesday, when U.S. officials still sought to convince Taliban political leaders to come to the negotiating table to end the grinding war in Afghanistan.

That never happened, but the exchange forced the White House to launch a fierce defense of their actions Tuesday. President Obama and his top aides insisted were...