Following the rescue of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held prisoner in Afghanistan since 2009, some partisan debate has ensued — and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed some concerns about the soldier’s rescue and detention on the morning talk show circuit.
Jay Carney, who is leaving his post as the White House’s mouthpiece, appeared on CNN’s New Day to talk to host Chris Cuomo about the confusion.
Among the issues discussed were whether the United States “negotiated with terrorists” to secure Bergdahl’s release, and Cuomo asked why the White House might “parse words” to say the government hadn’t done so.
Carney responded, explaining that Bergdahl was a prisoner and not a hostage:
“The fact is he was held in an armed conflict… We were engaged in an armed conflict with the Taliban, and we have a history in this country of making sure that our prisoners of war are returned to us. We don’t leave them behind. He was not a hostage, he was a prisoner.”
Adding that the threat allegedly posed by the five Gitmo detainees exchanged to Bergdahl’s release, Carney stated that risk was “sufficiently mitigated,” with travel bans and monitoring by host countries conditional for the exchange to take place.
In addition to the question of whether the precedent set was harmful to Americans and encouraged hostage taking, Jay Carney also took questions from Cuomo about the circumstances under which Bergdahl disappeared and whether possible desertion from his post should have factored in to the decision to rescue him.
To that, he replied:
“Here’s what matters. He was a prisoner in an armed conflict, a member of the military, and in that situation the United States does not leave its men and women behind… And for five years, we’ve been engaged in an effort to try to secure his release and we were very fortunate to do that this weekend.”
Carney also appeared on the Today show to talk to Matt Lauer about the same issues debated on CNN.
Reiterating the White House’s position on the issue of negotiation versus not leaving men and women in uniform behind, he said:
“We believe this is not a security threat to the United States… We’ve made clear for years that we would aggressively engage in an effort to recover Sgt. Bergdahl. That’s what we do when our men and women are held as prisoners of war.”
Carney also advised against viewing the prisoner exchange out of context, saying:
“I caution anyone against buying the propaganda of terrorists, first of all… Secondly, it is absolutely a situation with a long history and precedent where we engage an exchange of prisoners during an armed conflict.”
Jay Carney’s appearances to discuss the rescue of Bowe Bergdahl are among his last in this official capacity, as he retires his post later in June.