American POW Bergdahl Freed in Prisoner Exchange

National Journal
Kevin Baron, Defense One
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Kevin Baron, Defense One
May 31, 2014, 9:44 a.m.

SINGA­PORE ”“ Amer­ic­an Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl has been freed from cap­tiv­ity in Afgh­anistan in a pris­on­er ex­change, U.S. of­fi­cials an­nounced Sat­urday. 

Ber­g­dhal, 28, was re­covered at around 10:30 east­ern time on Sat­urday.

Pres­id­ent Barack Obama, in a state­ment, said, “Today the Amer­ic­an people are pleased that we will be able to wel­come home Ser­geant Bowe Ber­g­dahl, held cap­tive for nearly five years. On be­half of the Amer­ic­an people, I was honored to call his par­ents to ex­press our joy that they can ex­pect his safe re­turn, mind­ful of their cour­age and sac­ri­fice throughout this or­deal.”

“His par­ents have been no­ti­fied, they happened to be in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. He is in good con­di­tion and was able to walk. He is at a base in Afgh­anistan un­der­go­ing med­ic­al eval­u­ation,” said a seni­or de­fense of­fi­cial trav­el­ing with De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel over­seas.” The trans­fer happened in East­ern Afgh­anistan along the bor­der between U.S. spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces and mem­bers of the Taliban.”

“In con­nec­tion with this there will be a trans­fer of five Guantanamo Bay de­tain­ees to Qatar,” said the of­fi­cial. “That trans­fer is hap­pen­ing right now.” Once in Qatar, per an agree­ment, the pris­on­ers will be banned from trav­el­ing out­side the coun­try for one year. 

“The United States has co­ordin­ated closely with Qatar to en­sure that se­cur­ity meas­ures are in place and the na­tion­al se­cur­ity of the United States will not be com­prom­ised,” said Hagel, in a state­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial, once aboard a U.S. heli­copter, Ber­g­dahl wrote on a pa­per plate with a pen “SF?” — mean­ing spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces — and the U.S. ser­vice mem­bers on board said back, loudly, “‘Yes, we’ve been look­ing for you for a long time.’ And at that point, Sgt. Ber­g­dahl broke down.”

Ber­g­dahl has been held by the Taliban since he went miss­ing in June 2009. The last video show­ing him alive was in Decem­ber 2013. 

Ber­g­dahl’s dis­ap­pear­ance has been clouded in ques­tions of wheth­er he was ab­duc­ted by the Taliban or ac­tu­ally deser­ted his base and was then picked up by Taliban forces. The seni­or de­fense of­fi­cial de­clined to com­ment on the cir­cum­stances of Ber­g­dahl’s dis­ap­pear­ance but said he would be ques­tioned about his cap­tiv­ity when he is ready. U.S.of­fi­cials long have be­lieved Ber­g­dahl was held for the bulk of his time in Pakistan by the Haqqani net­work. The seni­or de­fense of­fi­cial would not dis­close how Ber­g­dahl came to be re­leased by Taliban mem­bers.

“The trans­fer took place peace­fully and without in­cid­ent,” said the of­fi­cial. There were ap­prox­im­ately 18 Taliban on the site.

Hagel, in his state­ment, said: “A few hours ago, the fam­ily of Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl was in­formed by Pres­id­ent Obama that their long wait for his re­turn will soon be over. Sgt. Ber­g­dahl is now un­der the care of the U.S. mil­it­ary after be­ing handed over by his captors in Afgh­anistan. We will give him 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.”

“Sgt. Ber­g­dahl’s re­turn is a power­ful re­mind­er of the en­dur­ing, sac­red com­mit­ment our na­tion makes to all those who serve in uni­form. The United States gov­ern­ment nev­er for­got Sgt. Ber­g­dahl, nor did we stop work­ing to bring him back. I am grate­ful to all the mil­it­ary and ci­vil­ian pro­fes­sion­als from DODand our in­ter­agency part­ners ­ who helped make this mo­ment pos­sible, and to all those Amer­ic­ans who stood vi­gil with the Ber­g­dahl fam­ily.”

Joint Chiefs Chair­man Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey, on his Face­book page, said: “It is our eth­os that we nev­er leave a fallen com­rade. Today we have back in our ranks the only re­main­ing cap­tured sol­dier from our con­flicts in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan. Wel­come home SGT Bowe Ber­g­dahl.”

Ber­g­dahl is at an un­dis­closed for­ward op­er­at­ing base in Afgh­anistan and will next be trans­ferred to Ba­gram Air Base when cleared by med­ic­al per­son­nel.

“This was a whole of gov­ern­ment ap­proach ““ state De­part­ment, the in­tel­li­gence com­munity, cer­tainly the mil­it­ary, the na­tion­al se­cur­ity staff ““ this was without ques­tion a team ef­fort”¦ that took five years,” said the of­fi­cial.

“We really got trac­tion in the last week here.”

More de­tails will be provided as they come.

What We're Following See More »
Clinton Foundation Staffers Steered Biz to Bill
1 hours ago

"Two chief fundraisers for the Clinton Foundation pressed corporate donors to steer business opportunities to former President Bill Clinton as well, according to a hacked memo published Wednesday by WikiLeaks. The November 2011 memo from Douglas Band, at the time a top aide to Mr. Clinton, outlines extensive fundraising efforts that Mr. Band and a partner deployed on behalf of the Clinton Foundation and how that work sometimes translated into large speaking fees and other paid work for Mr. Clinton."

Chef Jose Andres Campaigns With Clinton
9 hours ago
White House Weighs in Against Non-Compete Contracts
10 hours ago

"The Obama administration on Tuesday called on U.S. states to ban agreements prohibiting many workers from moving to their employers’ rivals, saying it would lead to a more competitive labor market and faster wage growth. The administration said so-called non-compete agreements interfere with worker mobility and states should consider barring companies from requiring low-wage workers and other employees who are not privy to trade secrets or other special circumstances to sign them."

House Investigators Already Sharpening Their Spears for Clinton
11 hours ago

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz plans to spend "years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton." Chaffetz told the Washington Post: “It’s a target-rich environment. Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

Clinton Super PAC Enters the House Fray
15 hours ago

Priorities USA, the super PAC aligned with the Clinton campaign, which has already gotten involved in two Senate races, is now expanding into House races. The group released a 30 second spot which serves to hit Donald Trump and Iowa Rep. Rod Blum, who is in a tough race to win re-election in Iowa's first congressional district. The super PAC's expansion into House and Senate races shows a high level of confidence in Clinton's standing against Trump.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.