Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, but now he’s coming home. In a top secret mission that occurred in eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban released Bergdahl to American special forces. Bergdahl is believed to have been the only American prisoner held in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, five Taliban operatives were transferred from the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay on Saturday and are restricted to Qatar for one year.
Most notable among the liberated Gitmo detainees is Abdul Haq Wasiq, who served as the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence, Khairullah Khairkhwa, who had direct ties to Osama bin Laden, and Mohammad Fazl, who oversaw the the mass killing of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan prior to the War on Terror.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed by the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Obama administration officials said Saturday.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. special operations forces by the Taliban Saturday evening, local time, in an area of eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. Officials said the exchange was not violent and the 28-year-old Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk.
In a statement, President Barack Obama said Bergdahl’s recovery “is 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 U.S. and the Taliban, with the government of Qatar serving as the go-between. Qatar is taking custody of the five Afghan detainees who were held at Guantanamo.
According to a senior defense official traveling with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Singapore, once Bergdahl climbed onto the noisy helicopter he took a pen and wrote on a paper plate, the “SF?” – asking the troops if they were special operations forces.
They shouted back at him 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, of Hailey, Idaho, is believed to have been held by the Haqqani network since June 30, 2009. Haqqani operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and has been one of the deadliest threats to U.S. troops in the war.
The trade is sure to raise eyebrows, since it appears to violate the American policy of abstaining from negotiating with terrorists. By law, the administration is required to inform Congress of any plans to release Guantanamo prisoners. Congress was notified just minutes before special forces were certain they had secured Sgt. Bergdahl.
Read more via the Associated Press.