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Editorial: Obama's first duty: To bring Sgt. Bergdahl home

President Barack Obama makes a statement about the

President Barack Obama makes a statement about the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as his parents, Jani Bergdahl and Bob Bergdahl, on May 31, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / J.H. Owen

The United States doesn't leave its soldiers behind on the battlefield.

Doing whatever it takes to bring prisoners of war home is a sacred commitment to our men and women in uniform, and reason enough to trade five Taliban fighters for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last American POW in Afghanistan.

There are troubling questions about how Bergdahl fell into enemy hands in June 2009. He was reportedly disillusioned with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. He may have deserted his post and gone native. The Army needs to learn exactly what happened if only to better inform itself about unreliable recruits. If Bergdahl went missing under less-than-honorable circumstances, he should be held accountable. But none of that ambiguity negated President Barack Obama's obligation as commander in chief to see him freed.

Critics of the deal say Obama should have given Congress the 30-day legal notice when transferring detainees out of Guantánamo. With the war in Afghanistan winding down, the Taliban amenable to this prisoner swap and Bergdahl's health deteriorating after five years in captivity, it was an opportunity to seize. Bringing congressional leaders into the process is important, but there is little evidence for second-guessing the administration's decision.

The five detainees swapped for Bergdahl were mid- to top-ranking Taliban officials who are clearly enemies of the United States. But they won't be returning to Afghanistan for a while. Their first stop will be Qatar, where the five are to remain for a year before being allowed to go home. By then our combat mission in Afghanistan should have ended.

There are plenty of questions about this deal that Obama must answer. But bringing Bergdahl home was an important promise kept.