Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

PolitiFact: Trump gets foreign policy facts wrong on Taliban Five, South Korea

New polling shows Donald Trump is neck-and-neck with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to win the Iowa caucuses for the Republican nomination for president. In interviews from Iowa on Sunday, Trump focused on foreign policy, continuing to criticize President Barack Obama and urging a change of course.

Trump hammered Obama for being a poor negotiator, particularly for Obama's controversial decision to exchange five Guantanamo detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a Taliban prisoner, in May 2014.

"You look at these deals," Trump said to NBC's Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. "I always bring up Bergdahl. We get a traitor, they get five people that they've wanted for nine years, and they're back on the battlefield, trying to kill everybody, including us. And we get a dirty, rotten traitor."

Trump's statement about the detainees being back on the battlefield rates False.

The five detainees were released to the supervision of the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar in 2014. Qatar is understood to be a neutral state, as opposed to a "battlefield" for insurgent activity. Under the agreement, the five released detainees are not allowed to leave the country.

This travel ban was initially supposed to last one year, ending June 1, 2015, but it has been extended.

Multiple administration officials told us the detainees haven't left Qatar. We found no evidence to contradict that.

In fact, in December, the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee produced a report in which it expressed concern that the Taliban Five pose a security risk. But the report noted that the security arrangements first made in 2015 had been extended so that the five would remain in Qatar.

The State Department confirmed to PolitiFact that the men are still in Qatar.

"None of the five individuals has returned to the battlefield," said State Department spokeswoman Liz Trudeau. "All five men are subject to a travel ban, and none have left Qatar."

"They're still in Qatar," added Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean the former detainees aren't trying to reconnect with the Taliban or other insurgent groups.

At least one of the Taliban Five is suspected by the United States of having attempted to contact Taliban associates. And Afghan intelligence officers arrested two suspected insurgents who tried to visit former detainee Mohammad Nabi Omari in Qatar, according to the New York Times.

But mere communications, or even giving orders from a distance, is not the same thing as literally being "back on the battlefield." Even if the Taliban Five has re-engaged in insurgent activities electronically — a contention that we reiterate is not confirmed by publicly available information — it would be a stretch to conclude that this counts as returning to the battlefield.

On South Korea troop presence

Trump also criticized the Obama administration for continuing a more longstanding policy: keeping troops in South Korea. North Korea recently purported to test a hydrogen bomb, bringing more attention to the region and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Trump said it was time for South Korea to pick up more of the costs of having U.S. military forces in South Korea.

"We have 28,000 soldiers on the line in South Korea between the madman and them," Trump said, referring to Kim. "We get practically nothing compared to the cost of this."

Trump's statement rates Mostly False. South Korea does pay a significant amount to support the U.S. presence. In the most recent agreement, announced in early 2014, South Korea said it would pay $866.6 million that year to support the U.S. presence. That was 5.8 percent higher than the 2013 amount, and that could grow by as much as 4 percent annually through 2018.

That presence includes roughly 28,500 military personnel — far smaller than the roughly 500,000 South Korean service members on active duty, plus many more South Korean reserve troops.

Calculating the South Korean financial burden on a percentage basis is tricky because it's difficult to determine how much it "costs" the United States to station military personnel in South Korea. If you look at the most straightforward amount — salary and benefits for 28,500 troops, which according to experts is roughly $100,000 a head — then South Korea's payments account for slightly more than 30 percent of U.S. costs in 2014.

"It's hard to argue that more than $800 million annually is 'peanuts' or 'next to nothing,' " said Lance Janda, a military historian at Cameron University.

The United States benefits from its presence in South Korea, stabilizing the region and giving the United States a base from which it can project military power throughout the western Pacific, Janda said. The military presence also helps protect countries that buy U.S. products.

Reasonable people can disagree, Janda said, about whether South Korea is paying "enough" for the U.S. presence, and whether the United States might be better off protecting South Korea with air and naval power rather than a sizable ground presence.

Still, he said, "I don't hear Trump making nuanced arguments like that."

Times staff writer Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Go to PolitiFact.com for full fact-checks.

Comments

Column: Tax reform is the right path forward for Florida

In Washington, the tax reform process continues to move steadily forward, increasing the likelihood that Floridians will be able to keep more of their own money next year. While it has been the subject of a great deal of criticism (and outright misle...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Carson Wentz's injury drops Eagles out of top five

What follows below is a ranking of all 32 NFL teams. To build this list, we consulted five objective measures of team strength: Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average ratings...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Dade City man turns himself in on warrants for Polk armed robbery

Dade City man turns himself in on warrants for Polk armed robbery

DADE CITY — A 25-year-old man wanted in connection with the attempted robbery of a taxi driver in Lakeland turned himself in late Wednesday night after being prompted by his mother, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Edner Dely of Dade Ci...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Local widowers say baby powder caused their wives’ cancer

Local widowers say baby powder caused their wives’ cancer

Two Tampa area widowers whose wives died of ovarian cancer are suing Johnson & Johnson, joining nearly 5,000 other plaintiffs across the country who blame their illness on the daily use of the pharmaceutical company’s talcum powder.Bryan Isa’s wife, ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pinellas judge: U.S. Army major found incompetent to stand trial can leave Florida

Pinellas judge: U.S. Army major found incompetent to stand trial can leave Florida

LARGO — A Pinellas circuit judge ruled this week that Roman Izzo, a U.S. Army major charged with murder but found incompetent to stand trial after he was injured in a motorcycle crash, can move to Kansas with his family.Izzo was released on $1.5 mill...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lawsuit attempts to end conversion therapy ban in Tampa

Lawsuit attempts to end conversion therapy ban in Tampa

TAMPA — A conservative advocacy group is asking a federal court to overturn Tampa’s ban on conversion therapy for minors.The City Council approved an ordinance in March that bars the controversial practice, which tries to change a person’s sexual ori...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jabil’s fiscal results top Wall Street expectations

Jabil’s fiscal results top Wall Street expectations

ST. PETERSBURG — Jabil Circuit Inc. beat Wall Street expectations for both profits and revenue Thursday.The St. Petersburg-based contract electronics manufacturer — one of Tampa Bay’s biggest public companies — posted fiscal first-quarter earnings of...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Deputies: Fleeing suspect shoots, injures dog as he runs through yards

DOVER — While fleeing from deputies, a man shot a dog inside a fenced yard Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said they were attempting to pull over a vehicle that might have been stolen near Milagro Court and Bl...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Amtrak train strikes, kills 60-year-old woman in Lakeland

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of a 60-year-old woman who was hit by an Amtrak train on Thursday.The woman was struck at 12:30 p.m. in the railroad intersection of Highway 92 East and Fairway Avenue in Lakeland, deputies ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Palm Harbor woman, 23, killed while crossing Seminole Boulevard

SEMINOLE — A 23-year-old Palm Harbor woman was fatally injured when she was struck by a sport-utility vehicle while crossing Seminole Boulevard on Wednesday night, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.The incident took place at about 8:4...
Updated: 2 hours ago