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US has ironclad commitment to bring PoWs home: Obama

June 01, 2014 10:58 IST

President Barack Obama has said that the United States has ironclad commitment to bring its prisoners of war home, as his administration released five detainees from Guantanamo Bay detention centre in exchange of an American soldier in Taliban captive for nearly five years.

"We are committed to winding down the war in Afghanistan, and we are committed to closing Gitmo. But we also made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home," Obama said on Saturday, hours after the release of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl.

“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," he said.

Bergdahl was in Taliban custody for nearly five years and his release followed years of negotiations, with Qatar acting as intermediary. "I am mindful, though, that there are many troops who remain missing in the past. That's why we're never going to forget; we're never going to give up our search for service members who remain unaccounted for," he added.

"We also remain deeply committed to securing the release of American citizens who are unjustly detained abroad and deserve to be reunited with their families, just like the Bergdahls soon will be," he said with the parents of Bergdahl standing by his side.

"As commander-in-chief, I am proud of the service members who recovered Sergeant Bergdahl and brought him safely out of harm's way. As usual, they performed with extraordinary courage and professionalism, and they have made their nation proud," he said.

Right now, the top priority is making sure that Bergdahl gets the care and support that he needs and that he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible, he added. "I'm also grateful for the tireless work of our diplomats, and for the cooperation of the government of Qatar in helping to secure Bowe's (Bergdahl) release. We've worked for several years to achieve this goal, and earlier this week I was able to personally thank the Emir of Qatar for his leadership in helping us get it done," he said.

"As part of this effort, the US is transferring five detainees from the prison in GuantanamoBay to Qatar. The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security," Obama said.

He also thanked the Afghan government, which he said, has always supported his efforts to secure Bowe's release. "Going forward, the US will continue to support an Afghan-led process of reconciliation, which could help secure a hard-earned peace within a sovereign and unified Afghanistan," Obama added.

Image: US President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (right) and Jami Bergdahl (left) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U S Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Lalit K Jha in Washington