Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - This file image provided by IntelCenter on Dec. 8, 2010, shows a frame grab from a video released by the Taliban containing footage of a man believed to be Bowe Bergdahl, left. Saturday, May 31, 2014, U.S. officials say Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed and is in U.S. custody. The officials say his release was part of a negotiation that includes the release of five Afghan detainees held in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AP Photo/IntelCenter, File) MANDATORY CREDIT: INTELCENTER; NO SALES; EDS NOTE: "INTELCENTER" AT LEFT TOP CORNER ADDED BY SOURCE
Idaho soldier freed from captivity in Afghanistan
First Published May 31 2014 12:20 pm • Last Updated Jun 01 2014 09:42 am

Washington • 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. In a statement, the Taliban said Bergdahl was handed over on the outskirts of Khost province.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Officials said the exchange was not violent and the 28-year-old Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk.

"While Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten," President Barack Obama said in a statement from the White House Rose Garden, where he was joined by Bergdahl’s parents. "The United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind."

Bergdahl’s 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.

Several dozen U.S. special operations forces, backed by multiple helicopters and surveillance aircraft, flew into Afghanistan by helicopter and made the transfer with the approximately 18 Taliban members. Officials said the commandos were on the ground for a short time before lifting off with Bergdahl.

According to a senior defense official, once Bergdahl climbed onto the noisy helicopter, he took a pen and wrote on a paper plate, "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.


story continues below
story continues below

The network, which the State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, claims allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, yet operates with some degree of autonomy.

Officials said Bergdahl was initially taken to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, for medical evaluations, and was being transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a military facility in Germany, for additional care before he returns to the United States.

The official said Bergdhal was tentatively scheduled to go to the San Antonio Military Medical Center where he would be reunited with his family. The military was working Saturday to connect Bergdahl with his family over the telephone or by video conference.

The U.S. believes Bergdahl was held for the bulk of his captivity time in Pakistan, but officials said it was not clear when he was transported to eastern Afghanistan.

All of the officials insisted on anonymity in order to discuss details of Bergdahl’s transfer.

Bergdahl’s parents, Bob and Jani, had been in Washington on a previously scheduled visit when they received a call Saturday from Obama informing them that their son had been freed.

As they stood with Obama in the Rose Garden hours after their son’s release, Bob Bergdahl, who grew a long, thick beard to honor his son, said Bowe Bergdahl was having trouble speaking English after his rescue. The elder Bergdahl had worked to learn Pashto, the language spoken by his son’s captors, and delivered him a message in that language.

Switching back to English, he said "the complicated nature of this recovery will never really be comprehended."

The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture remain something of a mystery. There has been some speculation that he willingly walked away from his unit, raising the question of whether he could be charged with being absent without leave or desertion. A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press on Saturday that the Army would make the decision on any charges but that the feeling at the moment was that Bergdahl had suffered enough in his ordeal. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and requested anonymity.

In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine quoted emails Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggest he was disillusioned with America’s mission in Afghanistan, had lost faith in the U.S. Army’s mission there and was considering desertion. Bergdahl told his parents he was "ashamed to even be American."

The Associated Press could not independently authenticate the emails.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.