Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who has been held captive for nearly five years by militants in Afghanistan, is coming home.
According to CNN, Bergdahl’s release from the Taliban was secured in exchange for five detainees who had been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The government of Qatar acted as an intermediary during what Military.com describes as “a week of intense negotiations.” The 28-year-old Bergdahl was handed over to American officials on Saturday evening. A native of Hailey, Idaho, Bergdahl had been a prisoner since June 30, 2009.
According to officials quoted by Military.com, Bergdahl was in “good condition and able to walk” at the time of his release. CNN reports that Bergdahl, after being handed over by the Taliban, wrote “SF?” (meaning “Special Forces?”) on a plate to communicate over the noise of the helicopter in which he was being transported. When the operators responded “Yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time,” Bergdahl reportedly broke down crying.
Bergdahl’s parents, Bob and Jani, released a statement expressing their thanks for the efforts that led to Bowe’s safe return:
“We were so joyful and relieved when President Obama called us today to give us the news that Bowe is finally coming home! We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son. We want to thank Bowe’s many supporters in Idaho, around the nation and around the world. We thank the Amir of Qatar for his efforts. And of course, we want to take this opportunity to thank all those in the many U.S. Government agencies who never gave up. Today, we are ecstatic!”
In a statement released by the White House, President Obama said he was “honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal.” The President also called upon the nation to remember other soldiers who “remain missing or unaccounted for” from past wars:
“Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield. And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue.”
Sgt. Bergdahl is currently at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. He is expected to be transferred to Bagram Air Field, the primary United States base in the country. From there, Bergdahl will fly back to the United States.
[Image via Wikipedia]