President Obama on Tuesday strongly defended his administration’s decision to return five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to the Taliban in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after five years of captivity, though he acknowledged that some of the released detainees could once again try to harm the United States.
“We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Bergdahl,” Obama said on a trip to Poland to discuss Eastern European security. “We saw an opportunity, and we were concerned about Bergdahl’s health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange and we seized that opportunity.” He added that “the process was truncated because we wanted to make sure we would not miss that window.”
Amid mounting congressional criticism about the operation, Obama said both the United States and authorities in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, who helped organize the trade, would closely monitor the released Guantanamo detainees.
“Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely,” Obama said in a news conference with Poland’s president. “There’s a certain recidivism rate that takes place.”
But Obama added that he would not have authorized the trade if he “thought it was contrary to U.S. national security.”. . .