Chuck Hagel and Susan Rice Praise Mission to Bring Bergdahl Back Home

Jani and Bob Bergdahl speak at a press conference at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. AP
Jani and Bob Bergdahl speak at a press conference at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. AP

The parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — the American who was released this weekend after being held for five years by the Taliban — urged their son Sunday to take his time to recover and thanked everybody, from people in their home state of Idaho to American and Qatari officials, for helping return their son.

“Take all of the time you need to recover and decompress,” said his mother, Jani Bergdahl, who has yet to speak directly with her son. “I am so longing to see your face after these five years.”

On Sunday, 18 Taliban members turned over Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in the war in Afghanistan, to a Navy SEAL team near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border at about 10:30 a.m. ET.

“Bowe I love you. I am your father,” said his dad, Bob Bergdahl, in the couple’s roughly 20-minute press conference in Boise, Idaho, on Sunday afternoon. “Please recognize we are on a mission… I’m so proud about how far you were willing to go to help the Afghan people.”

Their comments came hours after top Obama administration officials praised the diplomatic and military efforts to recover Bergdahl, saying it was an “extraordinary” and “life-saving” mission while disagreeing with the arguments that officials negotiated with terrorists and failed to inform Congress.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice made their comments roughly 24 hours after Americans learned that Bergdahl was recovered in exchange for the release of five Taliban detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“It was an extraordinary day for America,” Rice told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Rice and Hagel repeatedly disagreed with the argument that U.S. officials negotiated with terrorists to get back Bergdahl.

“He wasn’t simply a hostage,” Rice said. “He was a prisoner of war.”

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