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Bowe Bergdahl: Obama Defends Taliban Exchange
There are growing calls for an investigation into how a US soldier came to be held captive by the Taliban for five years and then freed in a prisoner swap deal.
It emerged over the weekend that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had been exchanged for five Afghans who had been held by the US.
President Barack Obama, who faced criticism from Republicans at home, defended the prisoner swap deal during a news conference after arriving in Poland on a visit.
Mr Obama said his administration has consulted with Congress "for some time" about a possible prisoner exchange for the release of Sgt Bergdahl.
He said that he saw an opportunity for a swift deal and had taken the opportunity as he had a "sacred" obligation to try to free captured US servicemen and women.
Questions over how Sgt Bergdahl's release should be handled have been raised by Greg Leatherman, the non-commissioned officer in charge of his unit when he "crawled away".
Mr Leatherman said: "His welcoming as a hero is not something that sits well with me. I'm glad he is home and healthy, but there needs to be an investigation and the truth needs to be told."
It follows a petition posted on the White House website which called for the 28-year-old to be punished over allegations that he deserted his post in Afghanistan when Taliban forces captured him in 2009.
It accuses Sgt Bergdahl of "walking off base with intent to not support the War On Terror", and says he was "directly responsible" for the death of "several military members" who attempted to locate him.
The motion, which needs to attract 100,000 signatures by June 30 to elicit a response from the Obama administration, had generated more than 8,700 signatures by early June 3.
On Monday, the mayor from Sgt Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, had urged Americans not to rush to judgment.
A story published by Rolling Stone magazine in 2012 quoted emails Sgt Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggested he was considering desertion.
Lawmakers in Washington voiced concerns over the Obama administration's decision to hand over five Afghan Taliban commanders to the Qatar government in exchange for securing Sgt Bergdahl's release.
Under US law, such a deal requires that Congress be notified 30 days in advance.
The move to release the detainees angered several lawmakers who accused the Obama administration of setting a dangerous precedent.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz said: "Have we just put a price on other US soldiers?" while Senator John McCain also questioned the release of "hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands".
Sgt Bergdahl remains at a US military hospital in Germany in a "stable condition". It is not immediately clear when he will be flown back to the US to be reunited with his family.