Lieutenant Colonel Jason Amerine, aided Hamid Karzai in fighting a guerrilla war against the Taliban during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. For his bravery, Amerine was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.
Later, the war hero returned to West Point to teach international relations and Arabic. When he moved to Washington to work at the Pentagon, “he received the orders that would derail his career.”
Amerine was working at the Pentagon, where he led an Army team ordered to bring home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who at that point had already been held captive in Pakistan four years.
But after an errant CIA drone missile killed an international aid worker, in January, Amerine was “abruptly escorted out of the Pentagon” – his retirement put on hold and his pay halted, as the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) had opened a case against him. Amerine says this was a hit job by the FBI, “payback for infringing on the bureau’s hostage-recovery turf.”
That aid worker was one of the civilian hostages that Amerine had included in his mission to bring home Bergdahl. Instead six Western civilians, including two Canadians and a newborn child, were left behind, held by terrorist groups protected by the Pakistani government.
“In 2013, Amerine lured the Taliban to a series of secret talks that identified a solution, but then “hit a wall in Washington’s bureaucratic maze,” according to a Newsweek article.
Bergdahl had been stationed just 25 miles from the Pakistani border, and within two weeks of his disappearance there was overwhelming intelligence that he had been smuggled into Pakistan, an ally in the war on terror. Bergdahl, an active serviceman, was a Defense Department problem. The U.S. military couldn’t go into Pakistan. “Any recovery mission, by legal and diplomatic necessity, had to be a CIA or Special Forces rescue ordered by the White House.”
Representative Duncan Hunter, a Marine veteran and Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, said all along that Amerine had a far better deal, but it was ignored. Bergdahl was finally released last year in a trade for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay — terms much more favorable to the Taliban. Hunter says he received no prior notice about that deal.
In Washington, federal agencies pursued different agendas, often in secret, and nothing got done according to Duncan.
The coordination from all these federal agencies that Hunter sought never came, so Amerine’s team pushed ahead on its own, continuing negotiations to release all seven hostages in exchange for just one Taliban-aligned drug kingpin.
Perhaps a little foreshadowing on Amerine’s part when he wrote in his journal in 2001 while preparing for the unknown in southern Afghanistan: “It’s a f*cked-up war when you are more worried about fighting your chain of command than the actual enemy.”
Amerine told the Senate in June: “The reason the effort failed for four years, was because our nation lacked an organization that can synchronize the effort of all our government agencies to get our hostages home.”
Amerine’s team “also realized that there were civilian hostages in Pakistan that nobody was trying to free, so we added them to our mission.” The ‘nobody’ Amerine was talking about was the FBI, the agency responsible for U.S. citizens kidnapped abroad.
Amerine wasn’t convinced the FBI was making progress, so he added the civilian cases to his recovery mission. The Newsweek article outlined his team’s plan: (1) Develop viable prisoner swap options, (2) bring the Taliban back to the negotiations and (3) fix the government’s broken hostage recovery policy.
During a Senate hearing in June, Amerine told lawmakers: “I am labeled a whistleblower, a term both radioactive and derogatory. I am before you because I did my duty, and you need to ensure all in uniform can go on doing their duty without fear of reprisal.”
The White House has addressed some of Hunter’s critiques, namely with the rollout of a Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, “a single, permanent U.S. government interagency body responsible for coordinating the recovery of U.S. hostages abroad.”
Hunter says the changes are insufficient, since the Fusion Cell will be housed within FBI headquarters.
Hunter also claims the FBI is behind Amerine’s current troubles. “Look no further than Army Lieutenant Colonel Jason Amerine…as a prime example of how the FBI retaliates against any interest that’s not their own.”
Two Senate committees led by Republicans are demanding answers from the FBI and Army to determine how this “decorated combat veteran, one of the first heroes of the nation’s longest war, so suddenly acquired his pariah status.”