BRUSSELS — President Obama said Thursday he will not apologize for the agreement that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and he dismissed critics who have attacked the agreement that freed five Taliban detainees.
"I'm never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington, all right?" Obama during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. "That's par for the course."
Saying the United States has a "basic principle" that it does not leave any soldier behind on the battlefield, Obama said: "We saw an opportunity and we seized it and I make no apologies for that."
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The Obama administration released five Taliban members from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for the release of Bergdahl after some five years in captivity.
Some congressional Republicans criticized the deal, saying it might encourage the Taliban to kidnap more Americans.
Members of Congress from both parties faulted the administration for not providing proper notice that it intended to release prisoners from Gitmo.
Obama said lawmakers knew that a prisoner swap was possible and that his administration acted quickly out of concern for the state of Bergdahl's health.
"We're now explaining to Congress the details of how we moved forward," Obama said.
Some troops who served in Afghanistan have accused Bergdahl of deserting his post, a claim administration officials have disputed.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, said the prisoner swap "has put in danger now countless American men and women in uniform across this globe."
Speaking Wednesday on CNN, Rubio said: "What the president has done here is send a very clear message and incentive, that if you can get your hands on an American serviceman or woman, you can trade them for as many as five terrorists."
Obama said he and other officials were thinking about Bergdahl's parents when they signed off on the trade.
"I write too many letters to folks who, unfortunately, don't see their children again after fighting a war," Obama said. "I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents."