Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told BBC that he was “satisfied” that the risk of handing the five Taliban commanders “was mitigated enough, that risk, for our country that it was in the interest.”
He also called it “irrelevant” whether the Taliban “think it’s a victory or not.”
“Let’s look at the bottom line. We have back in our position — possession our one prisoner of war that was still outstanding. We have him back. Now I don’t think that’s insignificant,” Hagel said. “…The fact is I think it’s important for our individual military members to know that we will continue to find them and get them wherever they are. I think that’s a bigger — a big assurance for our military men and women to know and be confident of that.”
Hagel spoke last night with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is still in Germany.
“I wanted to first reassure them that we were doing everything we possibly could to help rehabilitate him, get his health back, where it needs to be, so that he can get reunited with his family and brought back into — into society, quite frankly,” he said.
“I know of the criticism. I’ve been the target of it, so I’m quite aware of it. We did the right thing here. I wanted to reassure them that the president feels very strongly about this. I feel very strongly about it. I’ve been to war. I know a little something about this. And this was the right decision for the right reason. We don’t leave our people behind. How circumstances, why the disappearance, the Army has already addressed that and we’ll get to that.”
The Defense secretary stressed that much of the information on the Bergdahl swap remains classified and will be revealed to appropriate congressional committees, but “it was our judgment based on the information that we had that his life, his health were in peril.”
“Imminently?” asked the BBC host.
“Well, when you say ‘imminently,’ it’s easy for us to sit here and look behind and say, well, 24 hours, 48 hours. It was our judgment, and it was unanimous, by the way, I might add. It was the secretary of defense, secretary of state, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, director of national intelligence, attorney general. It all came — we call came to the same conclusion that we didn’t want to take any chances here,” Hagel replied.