WH: Not every missing soldier is Bowe Bergdahl
By Justin Sink - 06/09/14 02:38 PM EDT
The White House rejected comparisons Monday between Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, freed earlier this month by the Taliban, and a U.S. Marine currently being held by the authorities in Mexico.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he thought it was necessary to "draw a distinction" between Bergdahl, who went missing years ago in Afghanistan, and Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who accidentally crossed into Mexico on March 31 while in possession of loaded firearms.
"Sergeant Bergdahl was being held by the Taliban, who is engaged in an armed conflict with the United States and coalition forces," Earnest said. "And so what was conducted to free Sergeant Bergdahl was a prisoner exchange. And this is something that has been part of winding down armed conflicts for centuries."
Republicans have criticized Obama for working to engineer the release of Bergdahl, while Tahmooressi remains imprisoned.
“It’s ironic that we can deal with the Taliban and get an American soldier released, but we can’t get a Marine across the border released,” Rep. Ted Poe. (R-Texas) told 1080-KRLD in Dallas.
“What the President ought to do is just call the Mexican government and say ‘tell you what, we will trade five Mexican prisoners for the Marine — or — we’re not sending any more money to Mexico until you let him go.’”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also hit the president over Tahmooressi's imprisonment
"Here's what I'm thinking, Mr. President, you love to trade people — Why don't we set up a trade, but this time instead of five Taliban, how about five Democrats?" Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said during an address to the Texas Republican Party on Friday. "I'm thinking John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi — couldn't we send them to Mexico?"
Earnest said Obama was "certainly concerned" about Tahmooressi's fate, but referred questions about diplomatic efforts to free him — and the administration's confidence in the Mexican judicial system — to the Defense and State Departments.