News / USA

US Defense Chief Defends Secrecy of Prisoner Swap Deal

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to members of the military during his visit to Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan, June 1, 2014.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to members of the military during his visit to Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan, June 1, 2014.
VOA News
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is defending the deal to secure the freedom of an American soldier in a swap for five Afghan insurgents, even though Congress was not notified ahead of time as required by U.S. law.

Hagel said officials feared the life of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was in danger.  As a result, he said congressional leaders were not given the required 30-day notice that President Barack Obama planned to release the prisoners from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and turn them over to Qatar.  Qatari officials have pledged to hold them for a year.
 
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.
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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.

Some opposition lawmakers in Washington have praised Bergdahl's release, but criticized the terms of the prisoner swap.

One Republican critic, Congressman Mike Rogers, called the prisoner swap "a fundamental shift" in U.S. policy that would give terrorists "a greater incentive" to take Americans hostage.

Bergdhal was flown Sunday to a U.S. Army base in Germany to undergo a medical checkup and initial questioning about his nearly five years in captivity at the hands of the Taliban.  The circumstances surrounding his capture remain murky.
 
President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, 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, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 31, 2014.
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President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, 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, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 31, 2014.

Obama, appearing with Bergdahl's parents at the White House Saturday, said that the soldier "wasn't forgotten by his country" and that the U.S. "does not leave our men and women in uniform behind."

The U.S. leader announced last week that by the end of 2014 it will end combat operations in Afghanistan, while leaving about 9,800 troops there to train Afghan military personnel and assist in counter-terrorism operations. Obama plans to further cut the troop level to less than 1,000 by the end of 2016.

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to destroy Taliban military operations at the heart of the terrorist attacks against the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.

Hagel said he hopes the prisoner exchange will lead to breakthroughs in relations with militants.  He made the comments after an unannounced arrival at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to discuss the upcoming withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Officials say Bergdahl's handover to U.S. Special Forces near the Pakistan border was non-violent.
 
Celebratory signs are displayed outside Zaney's coffeeshop in Hailey, Idaho, May 31, 2014.Celebratory signs are displayed outside Zaney's coffeeshop in Hailey, Idaho, May 31, 2014.
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Celebratory signs are displayed outside Zaney's coffeeshop in Hailey, Idaho, May 31, 2014.
Celebratory signs are displayed outside Zaney's coffeeshop in Hailey, Idaho, May 31, 2014.

The 28-year-old Bergdahl, a resident of the western U.S. state of Idaho, was captured by the Taliban on June 30, 2009, about two months after he arrived in Afghanistan.

His hometown of Hailey, Idaho had been planning its annual "Bring Bowe Back" event on June 28.  But upon hearing of his release Saturday, the event was quickly renamed "Bowe is Back," and is now planned as a welcome home party.

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Comments
     
by: zarabmal from: Afghanistan
June 01, 2014 11:41 PM
I hope the released soldier gets back to his family safely. His release is a good news for everyone. it is also hoped that innocents imprisoned where ever on this earth are released soon.


by: S. Sjeng from: S. Shrignar
June 01, 2014 11:03 PM
Media reports that released USA soldier left his post at a forward operating base and was on a "walkabout" when captured by the Taliban....soldier sentt his uniform and possesions home to his parents with a email letting them know he was taking off....Our President then trades this awol soldier for 5 Taliban master terrorists....of couse Qatar of aljazeera tv is happy to take them in and then ridicule the USA on global tv.....


by: meanbill from: USA
June 01, 2014 12:56 PM
THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW, but you should know? -- The US has been in "secret negotiations" with the Taliban for over (4) years -- (because the US wanted to withdrawal from Afghanistan, without the Taliban attacking them when leaving) -- and they now are getting close to an agreement -- (the (5) Taliban released prisoners were part of the deal) -- to let US troops in Afghanistan leave, without being attacked?

LOOK for a deal with the Taliban to be made soon, for US troops to leave without being attacked, and other promises? -- WHY did you think Karzai was so mad at Obama? -- because the US was negotiating with, and making deals with the Taliban, without him or his impute? --- CRAZY isn't it? -- "You don't negotiate with terrorists" -- but we do now?


by: Wayne from: Colorado
June 01, 2014 12:41 PM
Neal - that's the soldier's Father in the picture with Obama. His parents were already in D.C. when the news broke.


by: lisa from: Chicago
June 01, 2014 11:09 AM
Thank the Sweet Lord for happy ending for the Berghdahl family.. what an absolutely horrifying experience for them to go through. very pleased to read this article about the release of Bowe


by: max
June 01, 2014 10:53 AM
I'm sorry, but I thought US policy stated they didn't negotiate with terrorists.
This is the start of a MUCH bigger problem.


by: Neal from: Florida
June 01, 2014 10:52 AM
Glad to hear that the released soldier is heading to get immediate medical help in Germany..... From Afghanistan..... WHY did he have to fly to the White House first? Was it that important to be seen standing next to Obama who's taking credit for the entire event? A 24 delay in Medical care and upwards of 40 hours of flying time?


by: Ned Sauer from: fort wayne in
June 01, 2014 8:33 AM
Thank you Sgt Bergdahl from all of us for your service and so happy for you and your family.


by: Clary Lunday from: Texas
June 01, 2014 7:28 AM
Welcome home Solider!
You where never forgotten.


by: mike from: florida
June 01, 2014 7:28 AM
Lets see we give up 4 killers for a guy who deserted and got captured. One way to close down Gitmo.

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