Controversy Swirls Around Repatriated POW
WASHINGTON – UNITED STATES – Bowe Bergdahl continues to recover and work through the reintegration process at Landstuhl Regional Hospital in Germany, a day before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefs members of Congress on how the Army sergeant came to be freed.
Bergdahl’s health continues to improve, and “he is engaging with hospital staff more and more each day,” Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a Pentagon news conference.
“The sergeant’s recovery remain a top priority, and it is going to take time”, the admiral said. “Nobody is going to push it any further or any faster than Sergeant Bergdahl and his caregivers are willing to take it,” he added.
Bergdahl was held captive for nearly five years in harsh conditions, Kirby noted. “He’s going to need time to re-assimilate — time to heal mentally and physically,” he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will testify before the House Armed Services Committee tomorrow on Bergdahl’s May 31 release, made in exchange for handing over five members of the Taliban being held at Guantanamo Bay to the government in Qatar. Today, senior Pentagon officials briefed senators in a classified session about Bergdahl’s case.
In answering questions today about why members of Congress were not told in advance about the swap, Kirby reiterated that there was a small, fleeting window to retrieve the sergeant. “It’s safe to say that the … entire national security team agreed that we needed to take advantage of this fleeting opportunity,” he said.
Kirby told reporters it was a military obligation to recover Bergdahl, and he urged them not to rush to judgment on the still unknown circumstances that might have led to his capture. “There’s really only one person who knows what happened that night and specifically what led to his disappearance, and that’s Sergeant Bergdahl.”
At this point in his recovery, the sergeant is not being questioned about his disappearance five years ago. “He’s got his hands full right now,” Kirby said.
Once that is finished, the Army will get to the facts and “if there is some misconduct that needs to be addressed, then the Army will address that,” Kirby said.
“This young soldier is innocent until proven guilty. “He has not been charged with anything and was never declared a deserter by the Army.”