An American soldier’s release from Taliban captivity first drew celebration, then criticism, and now, a lot of confusion.
The White House, however, knows where it stands.
“We do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind. We had a prisoner of war whose health had deteriorated, and we were deeply concerned about, and we saw an opportunity, and we seized it,” President Obama said Thursday during a press conference from the G-7 summit in Brussels. “And I make no apologies for that.”
The public is still learning the details of the Guantanamo Bay prisoner swap that brought Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl into U.S. military hands after five years in Afghanistan. And no one — not even those who knew him — seems able to decide whether Bergdahl’s alleged actions before he was kidnapped matter in the context of his return.
“I believe that he totally deserted — not only his fellow soldiers — but his leadership that wanted the best for him and for our country,” Justin Gerleve, Bergdahl’s former squad leader, told CNN on Wednesday. But Gerleve believes the soldier should have been rescued. “My opinion is yes; no American needs to be left behind.”
In Washington, outrage is brewing as Democrats and Republican lawmakers wonder why Congress was not consulted 30 days in advance about the decision to free Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban operatives.
“We had discussed with Congress the possibility that something like this might occur, but because of the nature of the folks that we were dealing with and the fragile nature of these negotiations, we felt it was important to go ahead and do what we did,” Obama said Thursday. “And we’re now explaining to Congress the details of how we moved forward.”
Congress looks prepared to hear them, but some are more interested in the president’s role in the situation. “There’s too much emphasis on Bergdahl. That is not that important,” Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member James Inhofe said Wednesday after a classified White House briefing on the swap. “What is important is what the president did.”