Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the military operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees was not relayed to Congress because officials believed the soldier’s life was in danger.
In his first extensive public comments about Saturday’s operation, Hagel said intelligence the U.S. had gathered suggested that Bergdahl’s “safety and health were both in jeopardy, and in particular his health was deteriorating.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Hagel said Congress was not told earlier about the operation because officials believed the soldier’s life was in danger.
Intelligence gathered suggested that Bergdahl’s “health was deteriorating,” Hagel told host David Gregory in an interview from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.
“This was essentially an operation to save the life of Sgt. Bergdahl,” Hagel added. “We had information that his health could be deteriorating rapidly. There was question about his safety. We found an opportunity. We took that opportunity.
“I’ll stand by that decision. I signed off on that decision. The president made the ultimate decision.”
But a Republican lawmaker appearing on the same program said he was disappointed and shocked by the move.
“The release of five mid- to high-level of Taliban is shocking to me,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.
“I’m very disappointed.”
The trade of known terrorists is a “break with U.S. policy,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers added.
“The No. 1 way that al-Qaida raises money is by ransom – kidnapping and ransom. We have now set a price,” the Michigan Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“If you negotiate here, you’ve sent a message to every al-Qaida group in the world, by the way, some who are holding U.S. hostages today – that there is some value now in that hostage in a way that they didn’t have before,” Rogers said. “That is dangerous.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, said the U.S. could have used military force to free Bergdahl rather than negotiate a swap.
“I do not think the way to deal with terrorists is through releasing other violent terrorists,” Cruz said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s not the only way. We can go in and use military force, as needed, to rescue our fallen compatriots.
“The idea that we’re now making trades, what does that do for every single soldier stationed abroad?” he asked. “It says the reason why the U.S. has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.”
Read more at NEWSMAX.