Bowe Bergdahl set to return to the United States
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is scheduled to return to the United States overnight, a U.S. official told CNN on Thursday.
Bergdahl has been in a military hospital in Germany since he was released in Afghanistan after five years of Taliban captivity.
He is expected to be taken to a military hospital in San Antonio for continued rehabilitation.
Bergdahl was exchanged on May 31 for five Taliban figures detained at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The swap sparked a controversy that touches on a range of volatile issues — ending the Afghanistan war, releasing Guantanamo detainees, accusations by members of Bergdahl’s unit that he deserted — and it comes in an election year that has further widened the partisan divide in Washington.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has defended the deal, saying it was Bergdahl’s last and best chance to get out. Critics have said the cost of the swap was too high, and that Congress should have been notified in advance.
Hagel appeared Wednesday at a House Armed Services Committee hearing, where Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, appeared to strike a nerve when he pressed the defense chief on why it was taking the U.S. military so long to interview Bergdahl.
Hagel already had fielded lawmakers’ accusations that the White House overstepped presidential authority and negotiated with terrorists to gain Bergdahl’s freedom.
Hagel started to explain that doctors treating Bergdahl will decide when he is ready to talk, but Miller cut him off.
“Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Why hasn’t he been returned to the United States?” Miller asked, noting that wounded soldiers from battle zones get flown back for treatment within days. “You’re trying to tell me that he’s being held at Landstuhl, Germany, because of his medical condition?”
Hagel responded, “Congressman, I hope you’re not implying anything other than that,” as the two continued to talk over each other.
“I don’t like the implication of the question,” Hagel said at one point, and when Miller persisted about injured combat troops coming back to the United States quickly, Hagel raised his voice.
“This isn’t just about a physical situation,” he said. “This guy was held for almost five years in God knows what kind of conditions. … This is not just about can he get on his feet and walk and get to a plane.”