American Soldier Held Captive By Taliban Since 2009 Freed in Swap
In a statement released by the White House, Saturday, the president announced the release of U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive in Afghanistan for nearly five years. Bergdahl was released in exchange for five Guantanamo prisoners, authorities said.
"On behalf of the American people I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return," Obama said in the statement.
Obama thanked the Emir of Qatar, whose "personal commitment to this effort is a testament to the partnership between our two countries," and expressed hope Bergdahl's release would portend well on the prospects for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
"While we are mindful of the challenges, it is our hope Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery could potentially open the door for broader discussions among Afghans about the future of their country by building confidence that it is possible for all sides to find common ground," he said.
Bergdahl, 28, of Hailey, Idaho, was serving in a parachute infantry regiment of the the Army's 25th Infantry Division, when he was captured in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.
Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military after being handed over by his captors.
"We will give him all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal, and we are grateful that he will soon be reunited with his family," Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement.
Hagel also said he informed Congress today that the USA is transferring five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar, which has agreed to ensure that security measures are in place and that the national security of the United States will not be compromised, he said.
CNN reports that U.S. special operations forces recovered Bergdahl from his captors about 10:30 a.m. ET in "a peaceful handover in eastern Afghanistan."
An official said that once on the U.S. helicopter, Bergdahl wrote on a paper plate, "SF?" meaning, "Special Forces?"
He wrote because of the noise. The operators sitting with Bergdahl responded loudly: "Yes, we've been looking for you for a long time."
Bergdahl broke down crying, the official recounted.