Obama, family speak on Bergdahl release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - President Barack Obama praised the troops and government officials who rescued Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Saturday, and defended the release of five detainees from Guantanamo Bay in exchange.

The government of Qatar, which helped broker Bergdahl's release, has pledged to "put in place measures to protect our national security" in terms of the five newly released Gitmo prisoners, Obama said during brief remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

Joined by Bergdahl's family, Obama said that "while Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten."

Bergdahl's parents, Jani and Bob, thanked Obama and others for securing their son's release.

The lone American prisoner of war from in Afghanistan, Bergdahl spent nearly five years in captivity after his capture by the Taliban insurgents.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., questioned the exchange, describing the detainees as "hardened terrorists" who may seek revenge. McCain said he wants to know what steps are being taken to make sure "these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners."

Obama spoke hours after announcing the release of Berghdahl after nearly five years in captivity.

The president's statement echoed that of other government officials.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military ethos is "that we never leave a fallen comrade."

"Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan," Dempsey said. "Welcome home, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl."

Secretary of State John Kerry said he briefed Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday on Bergdahl's release.

"As we look to the future in Afghanistan, the United States will continue to support steps that improve the climate for conversations between Afghans about how to end the bloodshed in their country through an Afghan-led reconciliation process," Kerry said.

And Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the military will give Bergdahl "all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal."


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