Obama: No apology for deal to free Bergdahl

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U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (R) talks to a Taliban militant as he waits in a pick-up truck before his release at the Afghan border, in this still image from video released June 4, 2014. Photo - Reuters
US President Barack Obama said he makes “no apologies” for the Taliban prisoner exchange that freed Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody\’s child,\’\’ Obama said at a news conference after a Group of Seven nations summit in Brussels, Belgium.
 
"We saw an opportunity and we seized it and I make no apologies for it," Obama reiterated.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon reported Bergdahl\’s health is stable and improving as he recuperates at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.
 
In Brussels, the president addressed fierce criticism from Republicans and some Democratic allies that he did not sufficiently inform Congress over the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl, who was kept in captivity for nearly five years.
 
"This is not some abstraction, this is not some political football," Obama said. "As commander in chief of the armed forces, I am responsible for those kids.
"We don’t condition whether not we make the effort to get them back," he added.
The Taliban have released a video showing the handover of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan.

The 17-minute video, made public on Wednesday, shows Bergdahl clean shaven, including his head. He is dressed in a white traditional Afghan robe.
 
The soldier is initially seen sitting in a pick-up truck that is parked on a hillside. He blinks constantly and rubs his eyes in the bright sunlight. Several armed men stand nearby.
 
Later, Bergdahl is handed over to several men who arrive in a military-style helicopter. One of the men who leads him to the waiting chopper carries a white flag. 
 
Twice during the video, the words "Don\’t come back to Afghanistan" appear on the screen.
The video, released on Wednesday, shows the soldier dressed in traditional Afghan clothing as he sits waiting in the truck.
Several armed men with covered faces are seen standing next to the vehicle and on the hillside.
A Black Hawk helicopter then lands and the Taliban fighters – one of whom carries a stick with a white flag – lead Sgt Bergdahl to a meeting point where he is being taken away by US forces.
The exchange took place in Ali Sher district of Khost province near the Pakistan border.
 
A Defense Department spokesman says U.S. officials are reviewing the video but have no reason to doubt its authenticity. In a statement, Rear Admiral John Kirby also said Bergdahl’s transfer was "peaceful and successful," and that the military’s focus remains on getting him the care that he needs.
 
The Taliban captured the 28-year-old soldier in 2009, about two months after he arrived in Afghanistan. The circumstances of his capture remain unclear.
 
On Saturday, the militant group freed him in exchange for five Afghan detainees who were held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
 
Bergdahl was flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany for an evaluation.
The deal has caused controversy in the US, with Republicans warning it could put American lives at risk.
 
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama defended his decision to free the five Afghan militants in exchange for Bergdahl.
 
He said the U.S. had a "sacred" obligation to not leave men and women in uniform behind.
 
The president\’s decision has been questioned by some members of Congress, who said the release violated a U.S. law mandating that Congress be notified 30 days before prisoners are released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
 
The five prisoners were flown Sunday to Qatar after the Taliban released Bergdahl.  Under terms of the swap, the detainees from Guantanamo are barred from leaving Qatar for one year.
The top-ranking US military officer, Gen Martin Dempsey, also raised the possibility that the soldier could be prosecuted if he had abandoned his post before his seizure.
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Source: Agencies

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