Transcript for Ambassador Susan Rice on Release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
Let's bring those questions to Susan rice. Thank you for joining us this morning. Let's begin how Bowe bergdahl is doing right now. We know that he's landed in Germany. What more can you tell us about his health? George, this is a joyous day, the fact that he's safely in American hands and will be reunited with his family and his community, is incredible. He's now at a hospital in Germany, he's going through all of the requiz sits evaluations and care, and he's said to be walking and in good, physical condition. We look forward to the days to come in which we'll have an even better sense of how he's doing and we look forward to when he can return to the United States, continue his rehabilitation and be reunited with his family. Have we learned anything about his captivity? It's too soon, George. There's a very refined, precise protocol on how we treat and support prisoners of war who have just been released. He's going through this process of being supported and cared for and evaluated. But it's way too soon to get into details of what transpired during his captivity. Is it true that he's having trouble speaking English? George, his father mentioned that yesterday. But I think we ought to wait, it's really been barely 24 hours since he's been back in American hands, we need to see how he does as he goes through this evaluation. But our primary interest is in his health and well-being and his full recovery and the opportunity for him to be reunited with his parents, whom I had the privilege to meet yesterday, they're overjoyed as any of us would be as parents and as Americans. Finally after almost five years he'll be home. This has been almost a five-year effort to bring him home, the U.S. Has gotten close before, what made the difference this time? Well, George, things have come together, I mean, this has been something that the united States, we have been committed to getting him back. We're committed to bringing American taken on the battle field back, we never leave them behind. This process has been extended on and off for a period of five years. We also had some indications that it might be possible to return Bowe bergdahl, those discussions last year mediated by the government of Qatar, really came to fruition over the course of the last week, but it really wasn't until yesterday morning, just before 10:30 eastern time, that we knew for sure that he was back safely in American hands. As you have seen the criticism already coming in, Martha Raddatz mentioned some of it from Mike Rogers and the top republicans on the armed services committee saying this is going to put Americans at risk, threaten American lives, because you broke the policy of trading with terrorists. What is your reaction to that? Well, George, this is a very special situation, sergeant bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war, captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld to do the most to bring back our men and women taken in battle. We did that in this instance. For some reason, we took a position in the 21st century when some of our adversaries may not traditional state actors, that would break faith with the American people and the men and women who serve in uniform. So, regardless of who may be holding an American prisoner of war, we must do our best to bring him or her back. Also questions about whether the president violated the law, that charge coming from congress as well. Well, George, in fact, what we had to do and what we did do, consistent with the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief is, prioritized the health of sergeant bergdahl, we had reason to be concerned that this was an urgent and acute situation, that his life could have been at risk. We have in the past had extensive consultations with congress, they were well aware that this idea, this prospect was one idea that the administration was considering. It was determined that it was both appropriate and necessary for us to proceed in an expedited fashion and that's what the president decided to do. As a consequence we have Bowe bergdahl back. These detainees being sent back to Qatar are fairly high-level Taliban detainees. They'll have to stay in Qatar for at least a year. The question, the law requires assurances they won't be able to return to the battlefield. What assurances do you have? Well, the law says that we need to have sufficient confidence that the risk can be substantially mitigated. We do have that confidence based on a detailed understanding with the government of Qatar. Based on the president's personal communication with Qatar. Those assurances relating to the movement, the activities, the monitoring of those detainees give us confidence that they cannot and in all likelihood will not pose a significant risk to the United States. And it I in our national interest that this transfer have been made. What about that transfer? We have seen high-level Talibans be released going back to the battlefield? I can't get into the specifics of the understanding. But they relate on travel restrictions. It involves the activities of the individuals who will be in Qatar's care. But those assurances I can tell you are such that we are confident that the risk has been sub ststantially mitigated. Is this an opening for broader peace talks? That remains to be seen. I mean, obviously, this engagement indirectly with the Taliban was for the specific purpose of releasing Bowe bergdahl. But we long hoped that there could be afghan-led reconciliation. If this exchange opens that door a little bit, we would welcome it and we would certainly hope that, in any event that the reconciliation that we have long said is essential can proceed. Sergeant bergdahl, questions about how he was left. He desserted his post, if he did indeed leave his post, will he be disciplined? Or has he already paid the price? Certainly, anybody who's been held in those conditions in captivity for five years has paid an extraordinary price. But that is really not the point. The point is that he's back. He's going to be safely reunited with his family. He served the United States with honor and distinction. And we'll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years. But what's most important now is his health and well-being. That he has the opportunity to recover in peace and security. And be reunited with his family. Which is why this is such a joyous day. Finally, we're about to hear from senator Ted Cruz. The president laid out its foreign policy vision at west point. Senator Cruz has criticized the administration saying, far too willing to demonstrate weakness to those who would do us harm. Your response? George, the United States is the leading power on the world stage, we're recognized by everybody as such. Our military has no peer. Our economy is the strongest. We have extraordinary human and natural resources. We're reaching energy Independence. We're leading in a fashion that is redonalding to the united States. Only the United States can rally partners and allies to pressure a country like Iran and bring it to the negotiating table to have the potential of a comprehensive nuclear deal. That would take forever nuclear weapons off the table in Iran. The United States working with european partners has rallied to isolate and pressure Russia for its actions in Ukraine. I can't speak for Ted Cruz and what his particular perspective might be, but I can tell you, when we go to Europe next week as we will again for the second time this year and when we went to Asia back in April, all of our allies and partners look to us as their indispensable leader. They want to work with us and coordinate with us closely because their security and shared values depend on it.
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