Afghan Taliban prisoner swap deal
US defends Taliban prisoner swap deal as critics raise concernsReuters

The US government has defended the Afghan prisoner deal in which five Taliban leaders detained at Guantanamo were swapped for American Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, while critics have raised concerns over the exchange.

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, said the release of the US soldier serves as a "powerful reminder" of the country's commitment towards its troops.

"This is a happy day for our country, because we got one of our own back. Fortunately ... no shots were fired, there was no violence. It went as well, not only as we had expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have," Hagel said in his address to a gathering of US troops at the Bagram base in Afghanistan.

He emphasised that Washington decided to press ahead with the exchange after receiving intelligence reports suggesting the 28-year-old sergeant's health and safety were in jeopardy.

Bergdahl, who was handed over to the US, is presently in Germany undergoing medical examination.

Several Republicans have heaped scorn on the deal saying it poses a risk to the US especially if the freed Islamists return to fight.

Republican representative Adam Kinzinger said that, although he was happy over Bergdahl's release, the release of the Taliban leaders was "shocking".

Republican senator and former presidential contender John McCain said the Taliban insurgents were "possibly responsible for the deaths of thousands" and the exchange could set a disturbing precedent.

US officials have said Bergdahl was the only American soldier captured by Afghan militants during the conflict.