KABUL - The political uproar over the prisoner swap that won the release of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity intensified on Wednesday when his hometown cancelled plans for a rally celebrating his return amid allegations that he deserted.
The Taliban released video of their handover of Bergdahl to US special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border on Saturday, showing the US soldier seemingly dazed and anxious about the unfolding events.
Bergdahl's release after being held for nearly five years in Afghanistan provoked an angry backlash in Congress among lawmakers over the Obama administration's failure to notify them in advance. Some of Bergdahl's former comrades have charged that he was captured after deserting.
Heather Dawson, the city administrator of Hailey, Idaho, said that town officials had called off their June 28 rally to celebrate Bergdahl's release because they would be "unable to safely manage the number of people expected."
The small mountain community had been under pressure to cancel after claims by some of Bergdahl's former Army comrades that he had deliberately abandoned his post.
That anger helped fuel congressional criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the deal to free Bergdahl in exchange for the transfer of five senior Taliban members from Guantanamo prison in Cuba to Qatar, where they were to remain for a year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused critics of the agreement of seizing upon what should be a moment of unity to "play political games," but Senator John McCain, a top Republican who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, condemned the deal.
"This was clearly a terrible idea," he said. "These are the hardest of the hard core."