The best is enemy of the good.
The profoundest truths are paradoxical.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
U.S. Soldier Held Five Years By Taliban Released In Apparent Gitmo Prisoner Swap
Bob Bergdahl, father of captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, speaks at the “Bring Bowe Back” celebration held to honor Sgt. Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. (Credit: AP)
Bowe Bergdahl, U.S. soldier held in Afghanistan, freed in apparent swap
By Ray Sanchez and Barbara Starr, CNN
updated 1:57 PM EDT, Sat May 31, 2014
(CNN) -- Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier held captive for nearly five years by militants during the Afghanistan war, has been releasedin exchange for five Guantanamo detainees, authorities said Saturday.
"Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl," the White House said in a statement.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a separate statement that he had informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar.
"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.
Photos: Americans detained abroad
U.S. Army Sergeant released by Taliban
"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."
A statement from Bergdahl's parents, Bob and Jani, said: "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!"
A senior Defense official told CNN that the U.S. military recovered Bergdahl from his captors around 10:30 a.m. ET in a peaceful handover in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. special operations forces conducted the mission. There were 18 Taliban members present.
The official said that once on the U.S. helicopter, Bergdahl, 28, 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."
Bergdahl broke down crying, the official recounted.
In exchange for Bergdahl's release, five detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be released to Qatar. The US has "appropriate assurances" that Qatar will be able to secure the detainees there. They are under a travel ban for a year.
The United States believes Bergdahl had been held for the bulk of his captivity in Pakistan, the official said. It was unclear when he was moved to Afghanistan.
The transfer was brokered through the local Qatari government, the official said. Talks for the transfer began about a week ago.
Bergdahl's parents happened to still be in Washington, having come for Memorial Day.
Bergdahl was being held at a forward operating base in Afghanistan.
Hagel said the United States "coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised."
The White House said, "On behalf of the American people, I 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."
Bergdahl was deployed to Afghanistan in May 2009 and captured by the Taliban on June 30, 2009, in Paktika province.
In July of that year, a U.S. military official said the soldier was being held by the clan of warlord Siraj Haqqani.