U.S. Soldier Held Hostage by Taliban for Five Years Is Freed in Guantanamo Prisoner Exchange

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 1 2014 11:14 AM

U.S. Soldier Held Hostage by Taliban for Five Years Is Freed in Guantanamo Prisoner Exchange

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President Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Obama announced on Saturday Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held hostage for nearly five years by the Taliban, had been released. Bergdahl, who was the only remaining U.S. soldier captured during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, was taken by the Taliban in Afghanistan in June 2009 and his release was secured in exchange for five prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responded to questions over why the operation was kept secret from Congress saying the U.S. had to move quickly to secure Bergdahl because of his deteriorating health. "This was essentially an operation to save the life of Sgt. Bergdahl," Hagel told NBC News’ Meet the Press. “The Pentagon did not give Congress the required 30-day notice for the release of detainees to the dismay of some lawmakers,” according to NBC News.

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Here’s more on how the recovery of Bergdahl took place via ABC News:

At about 10:30 a.m. ET, U.S. special forces recovered Bergdahl from his captors, in a peaceful handoff in eastern Afghanistan, a senior Defense official told ABC News, recounting the operation. About 18 Taliban were present. The U.S. forces flew to the meeting in helicopters, and once Bergdahl was aboard, he wrote on a paper plate (instead of talking over the noise of the rotors), “SF?” meaning, “Special Forces?”
The operators sitting with Bergdahl responded loudly, saying, “Yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time.” Bergdahl broke down crying, the Defense official said.

The prisoner exchange was negotiated through local Qatari government representatives. The five prisoners in Guantanamo are reported to be in the process of being transferred to Qatar.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.