2014-06-11T163110Z_1699057736_GM1EA6C01DH01_RTRMADP_3_USA-AFGHANISTAN-BERGDAHL

U.S. defense chief defends swap of Taliban for war prisoner

U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel testifies about the Bergdahl prisoner exchange on Capitol Hill in WashingtonBy David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday defended the U.S. decision to trade five Taliban leaders at Guantanamo for war prisoner Bowe Bergdahl, insisting it was the right move but admitting failure to tell lawmakers hurt trust with Congress. Hagel told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee the administration felt a growing sense of urgency about freeing Bergdahl in recent weeks due to concerns that his health was deteriorating and warnings from Qatari intermediaries that “time was not on our side.” “We grew increasingly concerned that any delay, or any leaks, could derail the deal and further endanger Sergeant Bergdahl,” Hagel told the sometimes contentious hearing. “We were told by Qataris that a leak would end the negotiations for Bergdahl’s release.” Lawmakers have sharply criticized the Obama administration for freeing the five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo prison without giving them 30 days notice as required by law.

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