President Barack Obama is defending his administration's operation to rescue army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity, saying the United States is committed to freeing its prisoners of war regardless of the circumstances of their capture.
- Bowe Bergdahl, U.S. soldier held in Afghanistan, freed by Taliban
- Bowe Bergdahl, U.S. soldier held in Afghanistan, in poor health before release
Obama also acknowledged that the Taliban fighters who were freed from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl could engage in efforts detrimental to U.S. security again. But he said he was confident the United States could go after those individuals if that were the case.
Bergdahl has not met with his family yet and is not being interrogated, Obama said.
The president also responded to criticism that his administration may have violated a law requiring it to give Congress notice of 30 days before moving any prisoner out of Guantanamo Bay.
“We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Bergdahl,” Obama said during a visit to Poland, where he's attending talks on eastern European security.
“We saw an opportunity, and we were concerned about Bergdahl’s health. We had the co-operation of the Qataris to execute an exchange and we seized that opportunity.” He added that “the process was truncated because we wanted to make sure we would not miss that window.”
Bergdahl, 28, spent five years in captivity at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan before his release over the weekend. He continues to be looked after at an American military hospital in Germany.
Officials say the Hailey, Idaho man was in stable condition. He is yet to be reunited with his parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, also of Hailey.
In exchange for his freedom, five Taliban detainees were transferred from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to custody in Doha, Qatar.
An official in that country was quoted in media reports Tuesday as saying those five men will live in a residential compound in Doha with their families and they will be allowed to move freely in the country. They are banned from leaving Qatar for at least one year.
Bergdahl dubbed 'deserter' by battalion mate
In another development out of Washington, joint chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey on Tuesday said the U.S. army may investigate complaints of possible misconduct by Bergdahl.
Some of of his fellow soldiers have said they suspect he abandoned his post when he was taken captive in June 2009.
In a first-person account written for the Daily Beast and published Monday, a man identified as being in the same battalion as Bergdahl called him a "deserter."
Nathan Bradley Bethea said Bergdahl walked away from his post while on guard duty, leaving behind his rifle, helmet and body armour "in a neat stack."
"He had, however, taken his compass," added Bethea, who said he participated in attempts to retrieve Bergdahl throughout the summer of 2009.
A New York Times story on Monday said Bergdahl slipped away from the remote military outpost in Paktika province, on the border with Pakistan, with a "soft backpack, water, knives, a notebook and writing materials — startling, given the hostile environment around his outpost."