WARSAW, Poland -- President Obama defended the trade that released Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last weekend, saying Tuesday that the United States does not leave troops behind on the battlefield.
"Period, full stop," Obama said during a news conference in Warsaw, Poland. "We don't condition that."
Obama said his team pursued the chance for an agreement brokered by Qatar with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan who had held Bergdahl in captivity for some five years.
To free Bergdahl, the United States released five Taliban detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama said he received assurances from Qatar's government that it would restrict the future movements by these detainees, who have been involved in terrorist operations.
"We saw an opportunity," Obama said. "We were concerned about Sgt. Bergdahl's health."
Released on Saturday, Bergdahl had been the sole American prisoner of war in Afghanistan.
Republicans such as Sen. John McCain criticized the agreement, saying it could encourage the Taliban to kidnap more people and seek more releases. They also said the the released Taliban detainees could return to kill.
"These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands," McCain said.
GOP lawmakers also said the Obama administration may have violated the law by providing sufficient notice to Congress on the release of prisoners from Gitmo.
Asked about the releases during a news conference in Warsaw, Obama noted that the United States is ending combat operations in Afghanistan, and accounting for prisoners of war is a normal part of the process.
Said Obama: "This is what happens at the end of wars."