Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Hagel says White House moved quickly on prisoner swap because captive's life was in danger

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, center, is seen aboard a U.S. Military Aircraft before speaking to members of the media during his flight, Sunday, June 1, 2014. Hagel spoke about the released of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who was held hostage in Afghanistan, and who was handed over Saturday morning by members of the Taliban in exchange for five Afghan detainees held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

Enlarge Image

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, center, is seen aboard a U.S. Military Aircraft before speaking to members of the media during his flight, Sunday, June 1, 2014. Hagel spoke about the released of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who was held hostage in Afghanistan, and who was handed over Saturday morning by members of the Taliban in exchange for five Afghan detainees held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - U.S. Defence 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, Cuba, 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."

Taliban members handed Bergdahl over to special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan, and later in the day the detainees were flown from the Guantanamo detention centre to Qatar.

The Pentagon did not give Congress the required 30-day notice for the release of detainees.

Hagel said it was the administration's judgment the military had to move quickly to get Bergdahl out, "essentially to save his life."

He said it was the unanimous consensus of the National Security Council, and the president has the authority to order such a release under Article 2 of the Constitution.

Only a handful of people knew about the operation and Hagel said "we couldn't afford any leaks anywhere, for obvious reasons."

Speaking to reporters travelling with him just hours after Bergdahl was flown from Afghanistan to a military medical centre in Germany, Hagel said the special operations forces conducting the operation took every precaution, using intelligence gathering, surveillance, well-positioned security assets and a lot of helicopters to ensure that things did not go wrong.

"No shots were fired. There was no violence," said Hagel. "It went as well as we not only expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have ...The timing was right. The pieces came together."

Hagel said he was hopeful the prisoner exchange could lead to a breakthrough with the Taliban.

He said the focus of the operation was on the successful return of Bergdahl, but "maybe this could provide some possible new bridge for new negotiations."

The U.S. has long argued that the best way to a successful outcome in Afghanistan included reconciliation with the Taliban insurgents.

Asked if this type of swap might embolden other militants to take hostages, Hagel said that this operation was a prisoner exchange. And he said terrorist groups are already kidnapping young school girls, business people and other innocent people.

Hagel declined to say whether he believes Bergdahl was attempting to desert the Army or go absent without leave when he walked away from his unit and disappeared nearly five years ago.

"Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health and getting him reunited with his family," Hagel said. "Other circumstances that may develop and questions — those will be dealt with later."

He added that his own time in Vietnam and the fact that he knew people like Sen. John McCain of Arizona who was a prisoner of war, gives him a personal connection to such an exchange.

"This is a very happy day for the Bergdahl family," Hagel said. "It's a very important day for our troops and our country."

Hagel said he planned to talk to the Bergdahls soon, and will speak with the soldier at the appropriate time, so as not to interfere with his health care needs.

"I am particularly happy for the family. What they have had to endure, how they've endured it — it's been remarkable. They have not been bitter. They have adjusted, they never lost hope and faith," Hagel said.

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media