Hillary Clinton has defended the Obama administration’s controversial decision to swap five Guantanamo Bay detainees for a US soldier held hostage in Afghanistan, saying many of America’s allies made similar deals.
The former Secretary of State said she did not second-guess people who made such tough decisions, but the American tradition of caring for its citizens and soldiers was a “noble” one.
She also noted that countries such as Israel made similar swaps, citing its exchange of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for one of its soldiers in 2011.
“This young man, whatever the circumstances, was an American citizen – is an American citizen – was serving in our military,” Mrs Clinton said. “The idea that you really care for your own citizens and particularly those in uniform, I think is a very noble one.”
Several Republicans have attacked the Obama administration for the deal, saying it had capitulated to terrorists, and some critics have suggested that Sgt Bowe Bergdahl deserted his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban in 2009.
He was handed over to US special forces by the Taliban, in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday and is recovering at a medical centre in south-western Germany.
Mrs Clinton said the most important thing would be to get as much information as possible from Sgt Bergdahl, 28, about his time in captivity, saying he could be a valuable intelligence asset and shed light on the Taliban’s workings. She noted the Guantanamo detainees were supposed to be kept in the Gulf emirate of Qatar for a year.
She said the Obama administration feared Sgt Bergdahl would not survive much longer and described the swap as an example of the “hard choices” in government that is also the title of her forthcoming book.
“You don’t want to see these five prisoners go back to combat. On the other hand, you also don’t want an American citizen, if you can avoid it, especially a solider, to die in captivity,” Mrs Clinton added.