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Kerry defends US soldier swap with Taliban

AFP | Monday, Jun 9, 2014

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl waits in a pick-up truck before he is freed at the Afghan border.

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State John Kerry defended Sunday the prisoner swap that freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, said to have been sometimes kept in a metal cage and in total darkness while in captivity.

Kerry doubled down on President Barack Obama's controversial decision to release five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay a week ago in exchange for the freedom of Bergdahl, who the top US diplomat said was at risk of being tortured by his captors.

"It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what, to leave an American behind in the hands of people who would torture him, cut off his head, do any number of things," Kerry told CNN's "State of the Union" programme.

Kerry made the remarks - his first on the controversial prisoner exchange - amid a news report about the grim conditions in which Bergdahl was held while a hostage in Afghanistan.

The New York Times wrote that the army sergeant told medical officials he was kept in total darkness in a metal cage for weeks, as punishment for trying to escape.

Bergdahl, in treatment at an army facility in Landstuhl, Germany, is healing physically, but is still emotionally too fragile to be reunited with his relatives, said the daily, citing anonymous US officials who have been briefed on his condition.

The Wall Street Journal said Bergdahl has so far declined opportunities to speak with his family. It cited a US official familiar with Bergdahl's recovery.

In a statement, the Defence Department said it "does not comment on discussions that Sergeant Bergdahl is having with" his medical team.

The Times also reported that Bergdahl has had no access to news media and is unaware of the controversy raging in the United States about whether the administration put US security at risk by freeing the Taliban inmates.

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