Obama said there is "absolutely" a chance that the five Guantanamo detainees released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban will return to terrorism. He also compared the decision to that of other past wartime presidents.
President Barack Obama, left, and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski walk for a meeting with Polish and US soldiers at the military airport in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Obama came to Poland to meet regional leaders and attend ceremonies marking 25 years of Poland's democracy. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
But he asserted he wouldn't have made the deal that resulted in freeing U.S. Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, who had been captive for five years, if it were not in the national interest.
“The release of the Taliban who were being held in Guantanamo was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eyes on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities. We will be keeping eyes on them,” Obama said during a joint news conference with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, according to the White House transcript.
“Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely,” Obama continued. “That’s been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo. There’s a certain recidivism rate that takes place. I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought that it was contrary to American national security.”
Obama compared the action to that of other wartime presidents.
“This is what happens at the end of wars,” he said. “That was true for George Washington; that was true for Abraham Lincoln; that was true for FDR; that’s been true of every combat situation -- that at some point, you make sure that you try to get your folks back and that’s the right thing to do.”
Administration officials have asserted that measures were taken in a deal worked thru the government of Qatar between the U.S. and the Taliban.
Administration officials have also said the much criticized deal was not negotiating with terrorists.
Without directly commenting on accusations that Bergdahl was a deserter, Obama said that no American is left behind.
“But let me just make a very simple point here, and that is, 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,” Obama said. “We don’t condition that. And 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.”