United States (U.S.) Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was freed on Saturday after spending five years in the hands of militants in Afghanistan. He was the last American soldier to be held captive and was released in a prisoner exchange that took place at a planned location near the border of Pakistan. In exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom, the U.S. released five Taliban prisoners who were being detained in Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military prison in Cuba. This deal was negotiated by the Qatari government.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that according to the information and intelligence they had gathered, Bergdahl’s safety and health were both in danger. The U.S. acted quickly in taking advantage of an opportunity that would result in Bergdahl’s freedom. Following his release Bergdahl was taken to Bagram Airfield, a U.S. base in Afghanistan, where he received medical attention. He is expected to arrive at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Sunday where he will be given medical treatment. Landstuhl is the largest American facility outside of the U.S. that provides treatment for those suffering from serious war injuries.
Bergdahl, 28, is originally from Idaho, where his parents have been patiently waiting for the past five years for the safe return of their only son. On Saturday, they received a phone call from President Barack Obama who shared with them the news that U.S. Army Sergeant Bergdahl had been freed. His mother, Jani, stated that they will remain strong for their son during his time of recovery. His father, Bob, who has learned to speak some Pashto, said that due to the long period of time his son has spent in captivity, he is struggling with speaking English. The elder Bergdahl stated that his son’s recovery can never be fully understood due to its complex nature.
Bergdahl’s parents attended a ceremony that took place in the White House Rose Garden, where President Obama said that ensuring their son receives the necessary care was the highest priority so that the family may soon be reunited. During the ceremony President Obama stated that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan will be coming to an end and the U.S. prison in Guantanamo is expected to close down.
At same time U.S. Army Sergeant Bergdahl was freed, officials from Qatar arrived at Guantanamo and were given custody of the five prisoners who were promised in exchange for Bergdahl’s release. In a U.S. Air Force aircraft, the officials and the detainees returned to Qatar where the prisoners will be kept under watch and restricted by a one-year travel ban. Through their website, the Taliban in Afghanistan expressed their happiness and joy regarding freedom of their members. Bergdahl’s parents stated their gratitude towards the Qatari and U.S. government for the efforts they have made for the safe release of their son. Dozens of U.S. special operation soldiers and three helicopters were involved in the process of taking custody of Bergdahl from a group of Taliban. In order to ensure the success of the operation and prevent possible information leaks, the number of people who were involved and aware of the situation was kept to a minimum. Hagel stated that Secretary of State John Kerry did not even notify Afghan President Hamid Karzai of the prisoner exchange that took place. In May 2009, Bergdahl was deployed to Afghanistan and was captured a month later at a combat outpost in Paktika. It is currently unclear how he was taken by the Taliban group.
By Sarah Temori