Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl released: US soldier held by Taliban in Afghanistan freed after five years, Barack Obama confirms

 

An American soldier taken prisoner by the Taliban in Afghanistan was freed yesterday after five years in captivity.

American government officials said Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, 28, was handed over to US Special Operations forces inside Afghanistan by a group of 19 Taliban.

The freeing of the only American soldier taken prisoner by the Taliban during the Afghan conflict was reported to have been in exchange for the release five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

American officials said Sgt Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk. He is expected to be transferred to Bagram airfield, and then on to the US.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said Sgt Bergdahl’s recovery “is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield”.

Mr Obama, who personally telephoned the soldiers’ parents yesterday, added: “On behalf of the American people, I was honoured to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal.”

Sgt Bergdahl, who reportedly broke down after boarding a helicopter following the transfer, was serving as a private in the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, when he went missing on 30 June 2009, near the town of Yahya Khel in south-east Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. He was promoted to sergeant in 2011.

There have been conflicting accounts of how he got separated from his unit and captured. On 18 July 2009, the Taliban released a video showing Sgt Bergdahl, from Idaho, with his head shaved, saying he feared he would never see his family again, and explaining that he was captured when he fell behind on a patrol.

Later reports quoted unnamed US officials saying Sgt Bergdahl “just walked off” his base with three Afghans. In another report, Rolling Stone quoted emails Sgt Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggested he was disillusioned with the mission in Afghanistan and was considering desertion. Both these reports are unsubstantiated.

Sgt Bergdahl is believed to have been held by the militant Haqqani network in the tribal area of Pakistan’s north-west frontier. Talks on the exchange resumed in earnest about a week ago with Qatari officials who were acting as intermediaries.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sgt Bergdahl would be given “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”.

The five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo were being transferred into the custody of officials from Qatar.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technician

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established dealer gr...

Recruitment Genius: Contact Centre Team Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is the UK's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Shunter / HGV Driver

£23172 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest growing h...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager / Estate Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an experienced Resident...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate