A U.S. soldier held for nearly five years has been released by the Taliban in exchange for five detainees held at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

From the New York Times:

The lone American prisoner of war from the Afghan conflict, captured by insurgents nearly five years ago, has been released to American forces in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, Obama administration officials said Saturday.

The soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, was handed over to American Special Operations forces inside Afghanistan about 10:30 a.m. Saturday by a group of 19 Taliban, officials said.

American officials said that Sergeant Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk.

Bergdahl was captured on June 30, 2009, the circumstances of which have long remained unclear.

From the Wall Street Journal:

On June 30, 2009, then-Pfc Bergdahl was captured by militants after leaving his U.S. base in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The circumstances surrounding his decision to walk of[sic] the base have remained murky.

While a prisoner, he has received regular military promotions. However, the circumstances of his captivity have never been clear. U.S. officials have said he was believed to be held for most of the last five years in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group that is allied to but separate from the Taliban, and not directly by the Taliban.

But officials said he was handed over by Taliban, not Haqqani militants.

Qatar is said to have played a role in the negotiations, and the five detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be flown to Qatar on Saturday, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The U.S. says it has assurances from Qatar that the detainees won’t pose a threat to the U.S.

A U.S. Defense official described Bergdahl’s reaction once he boarded a U.S. helicopter after being recovered.

From CNN:

A senior Defense official told CNN that the U.S. military recovered Berghdahl from his captors around 10:30 a.m. ET in a peaceful handover in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. special operations forces conducted the rescue.

The official said that once on the U.S. helicopter, Berghdal wrote on a paper plate, “SF?” meaning, “Special Forces?” He wrote because of the noise. The operators sitting with Bergdahl responded loudly, saying, “Yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time.” Berghdal broke down crying, the official recounted.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement Saturday that Congress has been informed of the decision to transfer detainees.  He also indicated that the Bergdahl family has been notified of Sgt. Bergdahl’s recovery, according to CNN.

“A few hours ago, the family of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was informed by President Obama that their long wait for his return will soon be over,” Hagel said.

“Sgt. Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military after being handed over by his captors in Afghanistan. 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.”

Video report below from CNN.

[Featured image: CNN video]


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