We have in the past had extensive consultations with congress. They were well aware that this idea and this prospect was one that the administration was seriously considering, but when it came to fruition, the Department of Defense, in consultation with the Department of Justice, 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. And as a consequence, we have Bowe Bergdahl back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: These detainees being sent back to Qatar, they're fairly high level Taliban detainees. We know that they're going to be -- have to stay in Qatar for at least a year.
The question, though, is the law requires assurances that they're not going to be able to return to the battlefield. Senator Saxby Chambliss saying those assurances so far are feeble. What assurances do you have?
RICE: Well, the law says that we need to have sufficient confidence that the risk can be substantially mitigated. And we do have those -- we do have that confidence based on a detailed understanding with the government of Qatar based on President Obama's personal communication with the emir of Qatar on Tuesday when it looked like this possibility might be imminent.
And 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 that it is in our national interests that this transfer had been made.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But what are those assurances and what happens after a year? In the past we have seen high-level Taliban who have been released go back to the battlefield.
RICE: Well, George, I can't get into the specifics of the understandings, but they relate to restrictions on travel, movement, and the activities of the individuals who will be in Qatari care.
But those assurances, I can tell you, are such that we are confident that risk has been substantially mitigated, and that this is, in fact, consistent with the national security interests of the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is this an opening for broader peace talks?
RICE: That remains to be seen. I mean, obviously this engagement indirectly through the Qataris with the Taliban was for the specific purpose of releasing Bowe Bergdahl.
But we have long said and long hoped that there could be Afghan-led reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and its opponents, including the Taliban.
So if this exchange opens that door a little bit, then we would welcome it. And we would certainly hope that in any event that the reconciliation, which we have all long said is essential, can proceed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, on this point, Sergeant Bergdahl, there are a lot of questions about how he originally was captured and whether or not he had deserted, had left his post.
Is that going to be investigated? And if it's found that he did, indeed, leave his post, will he be disciplined or has he already paid the price?
RICE: Certainly anybody who has 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 is back.
He is 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.