Debate Stirs Over U.S.-Taliban Captive Swap


UPDATED: Monday June 2, 2014 5:35 PM

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl can expect a buoyant homecoming after five years in Taliban hands, but those in the government who worked for his release face mounting questions over the prisoner swap that won his freedom.

Even in the first hours of Bergdahl's handoff to U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan, it was clear this would not be an uncomplicated yellow-ribbon celebration. Five terrorist suspects also walked free, stirring a debate in Washington over whether the exchange will heighten the risk of other Americans being snatched as bargaining chips and whether the released detainees - several senior Taliban figures among them - would find their way back to the fight.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Bergdahl's health and safety appeared in jeopardy, prompting rapid action to secure his release. "Had we waited and lost him," said national security adviser Susan Rice, "I don't think anybody would have forgiven the United States government."

One official said that U.S. officials, after seeing a proof of life video, were concerned about Bergdahl's health and believed that with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what condition he was in, there was a greater sense of urgency.

This official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to discuss the subject by name, said there also were concerns about Bergdahl's mental and emotional health. The `good health' statement was more an observation that he was able to move on his own, and wasn't in such bad shape that he had to be helped or carried, the official said.

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