White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday pushed back against the idea that the United States negotiated with terrorists to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held prisoner in Afghanistan for nearly five years.
On CNN’s “New Day,” host Chris Cuomo asked Carney to expand on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s assertion that exchanging Bergdahl for five Afghan detainees held in the Guantanamo Bay facility did not amount to negotiating with terrorists.
“Why parse words and have the secretary of defense say we didn’t negotiate with terrorists?” Cuomo asked.
“The fact is he was held in an armed conflict,” Carney responded. “We were engaged in an armed conflict with the Taliban, and we have a history in this country of making sure that our prisoners of war are returned to us. We don’t leave them behind. He was not a hostage, he was a prisoner.”
The Obama administration’s national security team decided to move forward with the deal because the threat posed by the detainees who were traded for Bergdahl was “sufficiently mitigated,” Carney added. Asked to clarify how that threat was “mitigated,” Carney said the detainees would be monitored by host countries and placed under travel bans.
Cuomo also brought up speculation that Bergdahl may have walked off his post when he was captured by the Taliban. He asked Carney if the possibility that Bergdahl was a deserter should have factored into the administration’s decision to broker a deal.
“Here’s what matters. He was a prisoner in an armed conflict, a member of the military, and in that situation the United States does not leave its men and women behind,” Carney replied. “And for five years, we’ve been engaged in an effort to try to secure his release and we were very fortunate to do that this weekend.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.