News / USA

    Hagel Defends Bergdahl Swap as Life-Saving ‘Prisoner Exchange’

    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to members of the military during his visit to Bagram Airfield in Bagram, June 1, 2014.
    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to members of the military during his visit to Bagram Airfield in Bagram, June 1, 2014.
    Victor Beattie
    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has defended a Qatari-mediated agreement to gain the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in exchange of five detained Taliban fighters.  He also defended the decision not to inform Congress before the exchange took place, as required by law.

    "After five years, he’s been a prisoner of war," he said.  "As to notification of Congress, yes there is a 30-day notification.  I notified the appropriate committee leadership yesterday [Saturday].  That’s part of the responsibility I have as secretary of defense.  This was essentially, in our opinion, to save the life of Sgt. Bergdahl.  We had information that his health could be deteriorating rapidly.  There was a question about his safety.  We found an opportunity.  We took that opportunity.  I’ll stand by that decision."

     
    FILE - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image provided by the U.S. Army.FILE - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image provided by the U.S. Army.
    x
    FILE - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image provided by the U.S. Army.
    FILE - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image provided by the U.S. Army.
    Asked if the deal might pave the way for a resumption of peace talks with the Taliban, Hagel said it might:

    "As you know, we’ve strongly supported an Afghan-led effort to come to an agreement with the Taliban.  As you know, we have engaged with the Taliban until 2012.  They broke off those negotiations.  We’ve had no formal relationship since then," he said.

    The defense secretary says he does not believe the agreement will endanger U.S. military personnel or civilians by encouraging hostage-taking for ransom.  He says the U.S. record on going after terrorists and hostage-takers is pretty clear.
    Bowe Bergdahl
     
    • U.S. Army sergeant, was ranked private at time of his capture
    • Disappeared from army base in Paktika province, Afghanistan in June 2009
    • Taliban initially demanded $1 million and release of 21 Afghan prisoners for his release
    • Freed by Taliban on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five prisoners held by U.S. at Guantanamo Bay
    • Born March 28, 1986 in Sun Valley, Idaho
    Republican Senator John McCain, himself a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, said Sunday on the CBS program Face the Nation the five Taliban militants freed from the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo, Cuba are the “hardest of the hardcore” and might be responsible for the deaths of thousands.  McCain also says others released earlier are documented to have returned to the fight.

    "I think the big issue here is what’s going to happen to these five individuals.  If they re-enter the fight, then it’s going to put American lives at risk and none of us want that to happen, not Secretary Hagel or anybody.  But, if they are able, after a year in Qatar, to do whatever they want to do there’s no doubt they’re re-enter the fight.  Other ones who’ve been released from Guantanamo have re-entered the fight," he said.

    A fair exchange?

    RAND Corporation South Asia analyst Jonah Blank says there is no reason to doubt Hagel’s concern over the timing of the soldier’s release and fear for his safety.  He says some Taliban factions may have been inclined to support a public execution of a U.S. soldier.  And, he believes the exchange of Bergdahl for five Taliban fighters was a fair exchange.

     
    President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 31, 2014.President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 31, 2014.
    x
    President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 31, 2014.
    President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 31, 2014.
    "Let’s remember that prisoner exchanges are nothing new," he said. "The United States has engaged in prisoner exchanges ever since the Revolutionary War [of the 18th century], straight through the Civil War [19th century], World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War [20th century].  If we can have an exchange of prisoners with Nazi Germany and Communist North Korea, it doesn’t seem to me that the Taliban should be off-limits."

    Blank says the exchange probably would not have been made had al-Qaida figures been involved.  But, the Taliban, he says, is an insurgent force.

    And, with this exchange, Blank says he does not think American military or civilian personnel are at any more risk than they already are to hostage-taking.  He says the Taliban has always wanted to capture Americans.

    The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture remain unclear.  Hagel says the soldier’s health is of paramount concern and questions about the nature of his capture and captivity will come later.  Blank says, while questions remain about his disappearance, Bergdahl was promoted twice by the Army during his captivity and that suggests to him his actions were nothing less than honorable.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 02, 2014 11:45 AM
    THE TRUTH? -- The release of the (5) Taliban for the (1) American, is just a small part of the negotiations and deals, the US and the Taliban have been working on for over (4) years -- to end the US participation in the Afghan war, and for an agreement the Taliban won't attack withdrawing US troops...

    KARZAI was, and still is mad at the hypocrisy of the US government, who continually lied to him about not negotiating with the Taliban, without him.. -- (We'll soon see if there's a bigger US and Taliban deal, won't we?)..

    by: NewWorldPatriot from: USA
    June 02, 2014 9:52 AM
    Hagel, you are a fool. Bob Bergdahl is a Muslim. Bowe Bergdahl is a deserter. We've already lost 5 soldiers trying to get this guy back. You traded 5 top shelf terrorists to put a guy back in our population that may himself be a terrorist. To add to it, you did all of this without the required Congressional approval and without the knowledge of the Afghan president. BTW, let me also mention you negotiated with terrorists and made it substantially more dangerous for Americans traveling abroad. You and your handler should both be gone after this one.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora