Bergdahl, released in Afghanistan on May 31 in exchange for five
Taliban detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison, is being treated
at the U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
A national controversy has erupted over whether President Barack
Obama paid too high a price for Bergdahl's freedom. [ID:nL1N0ON292].
But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry fiercely defended the
"It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously
leave an American behind. No matter what," Kerry, a Vietnam War
veteran, told CNN.
One U.S. military official told Reuters the 28-year-old was
physically well enough to travel back to the United States for
treatment. He is suffering from disorders affecting his skin and
gums that could be expected after his five-year captivity, the
official said, confirming a report in the New York Times.
The newspaper reported on Sunday that Bergdahl told medical
officials in Germany the Taliban kept him in a metal cage in the
dark for weeks after he tried to escape.
Bergdahl, who was a private when he was captured, does not like
being called a sergeant, the rank he was promoted to while in
captivity, the military official told Reuters. The soldier is
struggling with emotional issues and has not contacted his parents,
although he is free to do so at any time, the official told Reuters
on condition of anonymity.
Another U.S. official said some of the experiences Bergdahl was
relating included "harsh treatment" by the Taliban, but that was not
surprising. "These are not nice people," the official told Reuters.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby declined comment on what
Bergdahl was saying privately at the hospital."The Department of
Defense does not comment on discussions that Sergeant Bergdahl is
having with the professionals who are providing him medical and
reintegration care," Kirby said in a statement. "We will respect
that process in all regards. "The exchange deal with the Taliban,
which was brokered by Qatar, has provoked an angry backlash in
Congress over the Obama administration's failure to notify lawmakers
in advance that Taliban prisoners were leaving the Guantanamo prison
camp. The former inmates were sent to Qatar, where they will remain
for at least a year with restrictions.
U.S. Representative Mike Rogers said on Sunday he thought at least
three of the five former prisoners would return to the battlefield
after they leave Qatar.
"I am absolutely convinced of that," Rogers, the Republican chairman
of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said on
ABC's "This Week".
But Kerry made clear that they would do so at their own considerable
"I'm not telling you they don't have some ability at some point to
go back and get involved," Kerry said in an interview with CNN's
"State of the Union" program. "But they also have the ability to get
killed doing that." [ID:nL2N0OP03B]
Kerry said the United States had proven its ability to target al
Qaeda fighters in Pakistan and Afghanistan and said Qatari officials
would closely monitor the released Taliban.
"They're not the only ones keeping an eye on them," he said.
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The swap also drew criticism from some of Bergdahl's former
comrades, who have charged he was captured by the Taliban in 2009
after deserting his post.
U.S. military leaders have said the circumstances of Bergdahl’s
capture are unclear. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has urged critics
to wait for all the facts to be known before rushing to judgment on
The Pentagon cautioned that the Army's investigation into Bergdahl's
2009 disappearance, once it began, needed "to be respected,"
signaling the public may need to wait a long time for the release of
the official U.S. account of what happened to him.
Obama has remained unapologetic about the deal to secure Bergdahl's
release. As U.S. commander in chief, he was "responsible for those
kids" and ensuring no one was left behind, he said on Thursday in
U.S. officials said they needed to move quickly on the prisoner
exchange because of concerns about Bergdahl's health as well as
fears that leaks could cause the deal to collapse or prompt a
Taliban member who disagreed with it to kill Bergdahl.
The U.S. House Armed Services Committee planned to hold a hearing on
the release of the five Taliban prisoners on Wednesday, with Hagel
due to testify.
The New York Times said the 5-foot-9 (1.72-metre) tall Bergdahl
weighed 160 pounds (72 kg) and showed few signs of malnourishment or
The newspaper also said Bergdahl did not have access to media
reports at the hospital in Germany. He is expected to be moved to a
military hospital in San Antonio, although officials have given no
date yet for that transfer.
Bergdahl's father, Bob Bergdahl, has received emailed death threats,
an Idaho police chief said on Saturday. [ID:nL1N0OP018]
The first was received on Wednesday, the same day the city canceled
a planned rally celebrating Bergdahl's release, Hailey Police Chief
Jeff Gunter said. Hailey, a tourist community of 8,000 people in the
mountains of central Idaho, has been buffeted by hundreds of
vitriolic phone calls and emails.
(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Ayesha Rascoe; Writing
by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry, Jim Loney, Stephen
Powell, Peter Cooney and Eric Walsh)
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