Obama hails soldier's release, cites 'ironclad commitment' to bring home POWs

WASHINGTON Sat May 31, 2014 10:21pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama watches as Jami Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (C) talk about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, during a statement in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington May 31, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama watches as Jami Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (C) talk about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, during a statement in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington May 31, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, flanked by the parents of a U.S. soldier released after being held for nearly five years by the Taliban, said in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday that the United States has an "ironclad commitment" to bring home its prisoners of war.

Obama said that while Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was being held, he was never forgotten. "We're committed to winding down the war in Afghanistan and we are committed to closing Gitmo (the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba). But we also made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home," Obama said.

"That's who we are as Americans. It's a profound obligation within our military. And today, at least in this instance, it's a promise we've been able to keep," Obama added.

The released soldier's father, Bob Bergdahl, spoke after the president and said that his son was "having trouble speaking English," adding, "The complicated nature of this recovery ... will never really be comprehended."

Obama told the soldier's mother and father that "as a parent I can't imagine the hardship that you guys have gone through."

In the deal to gain the freedom of the last U.S. soldier who was a prisoner in the Afghan war, the United States agreed to release five Taliban detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison into the custody of the government of Qatar.

"The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security," Obama said.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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