President Obama defends prisoner swap to rescue Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
(WJLA) - Was he a disillusioned soldier who deserted his platoon? Or a prisoner of war?
That is the type of question being asked as more information surfaces about 28-year-old Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. His release from Taliban captivity has caused political problems for the President -- who today defended the prisoner swap.
Bergdahl's release after five years in captivity isn’t turning into the happiest of endings. Some of his former platoon members are now speaking out against him, saying that they believe Bergdahl just wandered off on purpose. But President Obama argued on Tuesday:
"Whatever those circumstances may turn out to be -- we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity. Period. Full stop."
"The general feeling was that he deserted us, and walked off and left us," said Matthew Vierkant, who served with Bergdahl in the same platoon.
"The facts on the ground were, he left his weapons and his equipment, took minimal supplies, and walked off to either join the Taliban or do something else," Vierkant continued. "Only he can answer that question."
Bergdahl's freedom was secured by a trade of five high-level Taliban members being held at Guantanamo Bay. Congressional Republicans are criticizing that agreement.
"The problem that I have, and many others have, is what we paid for that release -- and that is, releasing five of the most hardened, anti-American killers. Brutal killers," said Sen. John McCain, who ran for president and lost to Obama in 2008. "They'll be back in the battlefield putting American lives in danger in the future and that's what most of us find incomprehensible."
"I wouldn't be doing it if I thought it was contrary to American national security," President Obama has said.
Meanwhile in Washington, many are taking a wait-and-see attitude about Bergdahl's future.
"If he's a deserter then he should be brought to justice," said Diallo Sekou, a local resident. "He needs to be tried here if he left his post."
"It doesn't to me matter if he deserted or not. He's still an American, and he's still part of the armed forces," said Katie Rumer, a local resident. "I think a prisoner swap is only fair."