(WASHINGTON) — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been released after nearly five years of Taliban captivity, President Obama announced Saturday.
“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,” Obama said in a statement, also thanking the emir of Qatar and the government of Afghanistan for helping to facilitate the release.
Bergdahl was discovered missing from his unit in Afghanistan in June 2009. He was declared to have been captured by the Taliban soon after.
His freedom was secured in exchange for the release of five prisoners from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said on Saturday that Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military.
“[T]oday, I informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar. 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. I appreciate the efforts of the Emir of Qatar to put these measures in place, and I want to thank him for his instrumental role in facilitating the return of Sgt. Bergdahl,” Hagel said.
Since Bergdahl’s capture, his family has pressed for his release, and this year the Obama administration reportedly began considering a prisoner swap to secure Bergdahl’s release. U.S. officials believed Bergdahl was being held somewhere in Pakistan and hoped to secure his release before U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan. In January, Bergdahl’s father launched a White House petition to secure his son’s freedom from captivity.
Bergdahl’s family released a statement Saturday saying, “We were so joyful and relieved when President Obama called us today to give us the news that Bowe is finally coming home! We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son. We want to thank Bowe’s many supporters in Idaho, around the nation and around the world. We thank the Amir of Qatar for his efforts. And of course, we want to take this opportunity to thank all those in the many U.S. Government agencies who never gave up. Today, we are ecstatic!”
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