(CNN) — President Barack Obama is defending the decision to undertake a prisoner exchange to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Afghanistan.
“We don’t leave men and women in uniform behind,” Obama said in a speech in Warsaw Tuesday.
He said his administration had previously consulted with Congress on the possibility of such an exchange for Bergdahl but had to move quickly because of concerns over Bergdahl’s health and to not miss a window of opportunity.
Bergdahl, the last American soldier held captive from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, is on a long journey home after being freed in exchange for five Taliban detainees who had been held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But not all share the sense of pride about the deal that released the prisoner of war.
Many of those who served with Bergdahl call him a deserter whose “selfish act” ended up costing the lives of others.
A reporter asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday whether Bergdahl had left his post without permission or deserted — and, if so, whether he would be punished. Hagel didn’t answer directly. “Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health and getting him reunited with his family,” he said. “Other circumstances that may develop and questions, those will be dealt with later.”
Bergdahl was transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he will remain until he completes his treatment, a U.S. defense official there told CNN. After that, he’ll return to the United States and go to a San Antonio military base, the official said.