US soldier swap with Taliban was `right decision`: Hagel

Strongly defending US` decision to swap five Taliban detainees for an American soldier, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday said it was the "right decision" despite the "very high risk" involved.

PTI| Last Updated: Jun 11, 2014, 22:57 PM IST

Washington: Strongly defending US` decision to swap five Taliban detainees for an American soldier, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday said it was the "right decision" despite the "very high risk" involved.

Hagel asserted that the Obama Administration complied with the law and did what it believed was in the best interest of the country.

"In the decision to rescue Sergeant (Bowe) Bergdahl, we complied with the law and we did what we believed was in the best interests of our country, our military, and Sergeant Bergdahl," Hagel told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee during a Congressional hearing.

"The President has constitutional responsibilities and authorities to protect American citizens and members of our armed forces. That`s what he did. America does not leave its soldiers behind. We made the right decision and we did it for the right reasons ? to bring home one of our people," Hagel said.

Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Hagel said the options available to the US to recover Bergdahl were few and far from perfect.
"But they often are in wartime, and especially in a complicated war like we have been fighting in Afghanistan for 13 years," he argued.

"I fully understand and appreciate concerns about our decision to transfer the five detainees to Qatar without providing 30 days advance notice to Congress. Under these exceptional circumstances ? a fleeting opportunity to protect the life of an American service member held captive and in danger ? the national security team and the President agreed that we needed to act swiftly," Hagel said.

"We were mindful that this was not simply a detainee transfer, but a military operation with very high risk and a very short window of opportunity that we didn`t want to jeopardise ? both for the sake of Sergeant Bergdahl, and our operators in the field who put themselves at great risk to secure his return," he said.

"In consultation with the Department of Justice, the administration concluded that the transfer of the five could lawfully proceed," the US Defense Secretary said.
Hagel conceded there is always some risk associated with the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo.
The US government has transferred 620 detainees from Guantanamo since May 2002, with 532 transfers occurring during the Bush administration and 88 transfers occurring during the Obama administration.