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POLITICS: White House

Poll: Americans strongly back efforts to rescue U.S. soldiers, but don't like Bowe Bergdahl deal

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Afghanistan,John Podesta,Taliban,Bowe Bergdahl,Becket Adams

Although a majority of Americans agree that every effort should be made to rescue captured U.S. soldiers, a plurality disagree with how the White House went about recovering Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a new Reuters/Ipsos survey shows.

The Reuters survey, which was conducted from June 3-6, found that 78 percent of respondents agree that the U.S. should everything it can to recover American prisoners of war, while only 7 percent disagree.

However, Americans believe that there are also limits to what should be done to recover U.S. servicemen, according to the survey.

The survey of 958 Americans aged 18 or older found that an overwhelming 66 percent of respondents agree that the White House's decision to release five top-ranking Taliban officers in exchange of Bergdahl set "a dangerous precedent for kidnapping/hostage taking."

Eighteen percent said they didn't know, while an even slimmer 16 percent said they disagree that the deal set a dangerous precedent.

The survey also found that only 33 percent of respondents agree that the return of a U.S. soldier is worth the trade of any number of enemy combatants, while 44 percent said they disagree.

And in what could be a sign of more trouble for the White House, only 29 percent of survey respondents agree that trading Taliban prisoners for the return of Bergdahl was the "right thing to do." A much larger percentage of respondents, 44 percent, disagree with the trade.

The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points,

White House officials have defended the exchange, which has drawn sharp criticism from both sides of the aisle, arguing that Bergdahl's supposedly failing health made it necessary to push through the deal without congressional approval.

White House counselor John Podesta said Friday that officials knew the prisoner swap would be a "controversial decision."

President Obama said that he was faced with a "delicate situation that required no publicity,” adding that he regrets nothing.

"This is something that I would do again and I will continue to do wherever I have an opportunity, if I have a member of our military who's in captivity," he said in an ABC News interview. "We're going to try to get 'em out."

Headlines celebrating Bergdahl's return were quickly replaced by claims that he may have deserted his unit in 2009 to seek out the Taliban. U.S. military officials vow that after Bergdahl recovers from “receiving treatment for conditions requiring hospitalization,” the circumstances surrounding the 28-year-old Idahoan's capture will be thoroughly investigated.

Luckily, the Reuters survey reveals that most Americans are still waiting for all the facts of the case to come out before drawing any conclusions. The survey shows that an overwhelming 65 percent answered "don't know" when asked if they think the former Taliban captive is a "traitor" or a "patriot." Twenty-two percent said they disagree that he's a traitor, while 13 percent said they agree.

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