President Barack Obama said Thursday he makes “no apologies” about exchanging five Taliban leaders for the release of the Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but that he’s “never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington.”
“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, and I make no apologies for that,” Obama said during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron following a Group of Seven meeting in Brussels.
While making no reference to accusations that Bergdahl was a deserter, the president said, “we don’t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back.”
Obama last year signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the president to give Congress 30 days’ notice before releasing terror detainee from Guantanamo Bay. That didn’t happen with the Bergdahl swap, which the White House termed an “oversight.”
However, the president said Congress was aware of the possibility of a deal.
“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 and we’re now explaining to congress the details of how we move forward,” Obama said.
He went on to talk about Bergdahl’s parents and the parents of other U.S. troops, saying, “this is not a political football.”
“You have a couple of parents whose kid volunteered to fight in a distant land, who they hadn’t seen in five years, and weren’t sure whether they’d ever see again, and as commander in chief of the United States armed forces I am responsible for those kids, and I get letters from parents who say if you are, in fact, sending my child into war make sure that that child is being taken care of,” Obama said. “I write too many letters to folks who unfortunately don’t see their children again after fighting a war. I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents.”