The only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed from Taliban captivity in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Sgt Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to US special forces by the Taliban Saturday evening local time, in an area near the Pakistan border. Officials said the 28-year-old was in good condition and able to walk.
President Barack Obama said Bergdahl’s recovery was “a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield”.
The handover followed indirect negotiations between the US and Taliban, with the government of Qatar serving as the go-between. Qatar is taking custody of the five Afghans released. The detainees can’t leave Qatar for at least one year.
According to a senior official with Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel in Singapore, once Bergdahl climbed onto a helicopter, he took a pen and wrote on a paper plate the letters ‘SF?’ — asking the troops if they were special operations forces. They shouted back over the roar of the rotors: “Yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time.”
Then, according to the official, Bergdahl broke down.
Bergdahl is believed to have been held by the Haqqani network since June 30, 2009. The US believes he was being held for a bulk of the time in Pakistan.