(Washington Post / Worthy News)– Defending the way he announced the exchange of imprisoned Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban fighters, President Obama said Thursday that he could not give up the chance to save one more life in the waning days of the Afghanistan war.
"I think it was important for people to understand that this is not some abstraction," Obama said, explaining why Bergdahl’s release was announced at a Rose Garden ceremony last weekend. "This is not a political football. You have a couple of parents whose kid volunteered to fight in a distant land who they hadn't seen in five years and weren't sure whether they'd ever see again."
Speaking at a news conference here, Obama added, "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 and that we don't condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back."
The fierce response to Bergdahl's release from lawmakers and some members of the military has plunged Obama into an emotional and complicated debate over the burdens of war six months before the planned end of combat operations in Afghanistan. While Obama sees ending the conflict as a critical foreign policy achievement, he is also learning that many in the military are leaving Afghanistan still searching for clarity on what has been accomplished, and whether the fight was worth it.
For Obama, Bergdahl's release was, according to aides, a relatively easy choice that brought home the last American prisoner of war. But some military officials see it differently and are especially furious that the White House greeted the release of someone suspected of desertion with the trappings of celebration. In addition to the Saturday Rose Garden ceremony revealing the swap, national security adviser Susan Rice said on television that Bergdahl had served with “honor and distinction.”
Members of his unit, which had been based in eastern Afghanistan’s mountainous and remote Paktika province, say Bergdahl deserted his post and some blame him for the deaths of soldiers there. The Army is investigating.