An administration official said the White House’s decision to draw attention to the statements was an indication of the strong political pressure Mr. Obama has been subjected to since his decision to exchange five Taliban inmates from prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, against Sergeant Bergdahl.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, General Dempsey also said that Sergeant Bergdahl’s next promotion to the rank of Staff Sergeant, which was due to arrive soon, was no longer automatic as the sergeant was no longer missing. in combat. “The leaders of our army will not look away from the misconduct if it occurs,” said General Dempsey. “Until then, we will continue to take care of him and his family. All other decisions will be made thereafter and in accordance with appropriate regulations, policies and practices. “
White House officials have said they recognize the prisoner swap will lead to political attacks, but there has been no serious internal debate on whether to prosecute it. While being aware of questions regarding Sergeant Bergdahl’s capture, officials said they were deemed largely irrelevant to the ruling.
Every American, regardless of how he was detained, should be recovered if possible, they said, and it was implausible to think of ending the war without seizing the opportunity to get him back. If Sergeant Bergdahl had been killed by his captors, they knew the White House would have come under fire for not working harder to secure his release.
But anticipating criticism of the deal with the Taliban, White House officials decided to invite Sergeant Bergdahl’s parents to stand with Obama in the rose garden when he announced the deal. They hoped to focus on the human story of parents desperate for their son’s return, something many Americans could relate to even if they were nauseous about negotiating with the Taliban. As it happened, the parents were already in Washington for the Memorial Day events.
John B. Bellinger III, who was the State Department’s principal lawyer under President George W. Bush, said Sergeant Bergdahl “will face justice, military justice.”
“We do not in any way leave soldiers on the battlefield unless they have actually joined the enemy army,” Bellinger told Fox News on Tuesday. “He was a 20-year-old. 20-year-olds make stupid decisions. I don’t think we’re going to say that if you make a stupid decision we’ll leave you in the hands of the Taliban.