Breaking: POW Held by Taliban Released
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only US POW believed to be held by the Taliban, was freed by his captors in exchange for give Guantanamo detainees, the Associated Press is reporting:
The officials said the Taliban agreed to turn over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The transfers happened after a week of intense negotiations mediated by the government of Qatar, which will take custody of the Afghans.
In a statement, President Barack Obama said Bergdahl's recovery "is a reminder of America's unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield."
Officials said the Taliban turned the 28-year-old Bergdahl over Saturday evening, local time, in Afghanistan. Several dozen U.S. special forces were involved in the exchange, which took place in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.
Officials described the transfer as a nonviolent handover between the American forces and about 18 Taliban.
Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity in order to describe the details of his release.
Bergdahl is expected to be transferred to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, then on to the United States.
Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, had been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. He is thought to have been captured by members of the Haqqani network, which operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and has been one of the deadliest threats to U.S. troops in the war.
The Haqqani 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.
PJ Media Washington Editor Bridget Johnson highlighted the plight of Bergdahl earlier this year as part of the Yellow Ribbon Project, which seeks to keep the names of Americans held overseas before the public until they are brought home.
Controversy has surrounded Bergdhal since his capture. Did he walk away from his post and desert? Emails to his parents just prior to his capture indicate he was "disillusioned" with America and thought about deserting. His emails home were full of details about the extreme dysfunction of his unit and how he felt he had been lied to by the military.
The Rolling Stone article, to be published Friday, also quotes other soldiers and associates of Bergdahl's as saying that he had talked about walking to Pakistan if his deployment was "lame" and that shortly before his disappearance he had asked whether he should take his weapon if he left the base. Friends and other soldiers describe a survivalist mentality, and Bergdahl's father, Bob, told the magazine that his son was "living in a novel."
"The future is too good to waste on lies," one email reads. "And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong."
The emails were provided to the magazine by Bergdahl's family in Idaho, which has gone public with its own discontent with U.S. efforts to free their son. There is no way to authenticate the emails.
Some of Bergdahl's reported words read like a suicide note.
"I am sorry for everything," he wrote. "The horror that is America is disgusting."
He mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books.
Bergdhal made several propaganda videos, but the military usually doesn't hold that against a returning POW. More problematic will be his debriefing where he will almost certainly be asked about the circumstances surrounding his capture. After telling his parents he was "ashamed to even be an American," Sgt. Bergdhal will have a lot of explaining to do.