An Anchorage-based Army soldier held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years was released in exchange for five Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Obama administration officials said Saturday.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a native of Hailey, Idaho, was the only known American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan. He was 23 when he went missing on June 30, 2009.
He was released to U.S. special operations forces Saturday in an area of eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, the Associated Press reported. The exchange was non-violent, the AP reported, and Bergdahl was said to be in good condition and able to walk.
Bergdahl, now 28, is assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The unit deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009.
"We've always kept him in our mind and always hoped that he would make it back safely," said Lt. Col. Alan Brown, spokesman for U.S. Army Alaska. "This is the best-case scenario from where we sit, for a teammate who's been in captivity for so long to ultimately be released and reportedly be in good condition."
Bergdahl was believed to be held captive by the militant Haqqani network, which operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. A proof-of-life video that surfaced in January appeared to show Bergdahl in declining health.
Appearing in a Rose Garden ceremony with Bergdahl's parents, President Barack Obama said that Bergdahl had "never been forgotten."
"We ... made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home. It's who we are as Americans," he said. "Today, at least in this instance, it's a promise we've been able to keep."
On social media, reaction to the news of Bergdahl's return was mixed, a reflection of unclear circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture. Speculation has swirled about whether Bergdahl deserted his unit before he was taken prisoner.
Much of the focus from top defense officials, however, was on the fact that Bergdahl would be returning safely. According to AP, Bergdahl was taken to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, for medical evaluations, and will be sent to Germany for further medical care before being reunited with his family in the United States.
Reach Devin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4314.
By DEVIN KELLY