Americans strongly agree the United States should make every
effort to free prisoners of war like Bergdahl, an Army Sergeant who
was captured in eastern Afghanistan in 2009. But they also think the
prisoner swap deal set a dangerous precedent.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 958 Americans interviewed online found
that 44 percent disagreed with the statement that trading Taliban
prisoners for Bergdahl was "the right thing to do," with 26 percent
of them strongly disagreeing.
Twenty-nine percent of those polled said they thought the prisoner
swap was the right thing to do and 27 percent said they were not
sure, the poll found.
Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. special operations forces in
Afghanistan last Saturday after the Obama administration agreed to
send five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo prison to Qatar, where
they must remain for a year.
After an initial wave of euphoria over the release, the deal
triggered a backlash among U.S. lawmakers angry because they were
not given 30 days notice before the transfer of the Guantanamo
prisoners, as required by law. Some of Bergdahl's former Army
comrades said they believe he deserted his post.
White House counselor John Podesta on Friday told a Christian
Science Monitor breakfast that President Barack Obama knew the
prisoner swap would be a “controversial decision.”
The president said he acted quickly because he was faced with a
"delicate situation that required no publicity" and that he had no
regrets about the action.
"This is something that I would do again and I will continue to do
wherever I have an opportunity, if I have a member of our military
who's in captivity," he told NBC Nightly News. "We're going to try
to get 'em out."
Obama decided to personally announce the exchange in the White House
Rose Garden, accompanied by Bergdahl's parents, in order to explain
to the public the reasons behind the decision, Podesta told a
The uproar over the prisoner swap has left Americans with conflicted
views of the events, the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.
Asked whether they thought Bergdahl was a patriot or a
traitor/deserter, 65 percent said they did not know. Only 13 percent
said they viewed Bergdahl as a patriot and 22 percent saw him as a
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The respondents overwhelmingly agreed the United States should make
every effort to recover prisoners of war, with 78 percent agreeing
with that statement, including 48 percent strongly agreeing.
At the same time, they also thought trading five Taliban leaders for
Bergdahl set a "dangerous precedent for future kidnapping or
hostage-taking," with 66 percent agreeing with the statement,
including 43 percent strongly agreeing.
The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.6 percentage
White House officials have said they were concerned about Bergdahl's
health and felt they had to move secretly and quickly to secure his
release once the exchange was decided.
Bergdahl was taken to a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where he
was in stable condition and continuing to improve daily, according
to an update by his doctors on Friday.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bergdahl
still had not called his parents "because he hasn't chosen to yet."
The official said Bergdahl had no physical issues preventing him
from traveling but that there was no imminent plan to move the Idaho
native back to the United States. Officials have declined to discuss
his health issues, citing privacy concerns.
(Additional reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Idaho, Roberta Rampton
in Paris, and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by David Storey, Grant McCool
and Diane Craft)
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