(WARSAW, Poland) — For the first time since his Saturday speech in the Rose Garden, President Obama defended the administration’s decision to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl despite questions about his capture.
“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. True. Full stop,” President Obama said at a news conference at the Belweder Palace Tuesday morning. “We don’t condition that. That’s what every mom and dad who sees a son or daughter sent over into war theater should expect from not just their commander in chief but the United States of America.”
“The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule. And that is we don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind, and that dates back to the earliest days of our revolution,” he said.
The president said the administration had consulted Congress in the past about the possibility of a prisoner exchange in order for the Taliban to release Bergdahl. The administration has come under fire by lawmakers for not consulting Congress prior to the swap.
“We saw an opportunity. We were concerned about Sergeant Bergdahl’s health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute the exchange, and we seized that opportunity,” Obama said. “The process was truncated because we wanted to make sure we did not miss that window.”
President Obama acknowledged that the five Guantanamo detainees swapped for Bergdahl’s release could pose a future threat to the country.
“Is there a possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? That is certainly true,” Obama said. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it was contrary to American national security, and we have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if in fact they are engaging in activities that threaten our defenses.”
The president said the U.S. has not interrogated Bergdahl as he is recovering and undergoing tests after five years in captivity.
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