WARSAW, Poland — President Barack Obama on Tuesday defended his decision to release five Afghan detainees from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for freeing an American soldier, saying his administration had consulted with Congress about that possibility "for some time."
Obama also brushed aside questions about the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's capture by insurgents in 2009. The United States, he said, has a "sacred" obligation to not leave men and women in uniform behind.
"Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity," Obama said during a news conference in Poland. "We don't condition that."
There have long been questions about how Bergdahl disappeared from his unit nearly five years ago. The Pentagon concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl walked away, and, after an initial flurry of searching, the military curbed any high-risk rescue plans.
Despite the Pentagon's conclusions, Obama said the government was not currently seeking to punish Bergdahl as a deserter.
"Our main priority is making sure the transition that he's undergoing after five years in captivity is successful," he said.