Obama said his administration had been talking with Congress for "quite some time" about the possibility that they might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Bergdahl, who went missing in Afghanistan five years ago. Obama said he had to act quickly when the moment presented itself.
"We were concerned about Sgt. Bergdahl's health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange, and we seized the opportunity," Obama said. "The process was truncated because we wanted to make sure we didn't miss that window."
Shortly after Obama spoke in Warsaw, the National Security Council officially released an explanation of why the administration considered it lawful to transfer the Guantanamo detainees without notifying Congress. The administration determined that the notification requirement didn't apply in this "unique set of circumstances," because providing notice "as specified in the statute could endanger the soldier's life," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said
Days after his release over the weekend, Bergdahl still hasn't met with his family, Obama said, citing the lessons of the Vietnam era for that delay. Bergdahl is "obviously" not being interrogated as he undergoes tests and recovers from years of captivity with the Taliban, Obama said in dismissing questions about the circumstances of Bergdahl's 2009 disappearance from his remote military outpost on the border of Pakistan.
The comments came shortly after Obama arrived in Poland on the first stop of his four-day European trip, a tour devoted mostly to conversations about the security of European allies and partners. In a news conference with Polish President
The release of the Taliban detainees came only after the Qatari government agreed it would be "keeping eyes on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities," Obama said. He acknowledged there is a possibility some of them could return to activities that threaten the U.S., but said that is true of all prisoners who have been released from Guantanamo over time.
“I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it was contrary to American national security,” Obama said. “This is what happens at the end of wars,” he said, arguing the same was true for
"That's been true of every combat situation," he said, adding that, "at some point, you try to get your folks back."