BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the military operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees was not relayed to Congress because officials believed the soldier’s life was in danger.
In his first extensive public comments about Saturday’s operation, Hagel said intelligence the U.S. had gathered suggested that Bergdahl’s “safety and health were both in jeopardy, and in particular his health was deteriorating.”
Taliban members handed Bergdahl over to special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan, and later in the day the detainees were flown from the Guantanamo detention center to Qatar.
The Pentagon did not give Congress the required 30-day notice for the release of detainees.
Hagel said it was the administration’s judgment the military had to move quickly to get Bergdahl out, “essentially to save his life.”
He said it was the unanimous consensus of the National Security Council, and the president has the authority to order such a release under Article 2 of the Constitution.
Only a handful of people knew about the operation and Hagel said “we couldn’t afford any leaks anywhere, for obvious reasons.”
Speaking to reporters traveling with him just hours after Bergdahl was flown from Afghanistan to a military medical center in Germany, Hagel said the special operations forces conducting the operation took every precaution, using intelligence gathering, surveillance, well-positioned security assets and a lot of helicopters to ensure that things did not go wrong.
“No shots were fired. There was no violence,” said Hagel. “It went as well as we not only expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have …The timing was right. The pieces came together.”
Hagel said he was hopeful the prisoner exchange could lead to a breakthrough with the Taliban.
He said the focus of the operation was on the successful return of Bergdahl, but “maybe this could provide some possible new bridge for new negotiations.”
The U.S. has long argued that the best way to a successful outcome in Afghanistan included reconciliation with the Taliban insurgents.
Asked if this type of swap might embolden other militants to take hostages, Hagel said that this operation was a prisoner exchange. And he said terrorist groups are already kidnapping young school girls, business people and other innocent people.
Hagel declined to say whether he believes Bergdahl was attempting to desert the Army or go absent without leave when he walked away from his unit and disappeared nearly five years ago.
“Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health and getting him reunited with his family,” Hagel said. “Other circumstances that may develop and questions — those will be dealt with later.”
He added that his own time in Vietnam and the fact that he knew people like Sen. John McCain of Arizona who was a prisoner of war, gives him a personal connection to such an exchange.
“This is a very happy day for the Bergdahl family,” Hagel said. “It’s a very important day for our troops and our country.”
Hagel said he planned to talk to the Bergdahls soon, and will speak with the soldier at the appropriate time, so as not to interfere with his health care needs.
“I am particularly happy for the family. What they have had to endure, how they’ve endured it — it’s been remarkable. They have not been bitter. They have adjusted, they never lost hope and faith,” Hagel said.
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(Photo Source: AP)
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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