Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only American prisoner of war in Afghanistan, was released on Saturday morning after almost five years of captivity. In a deal brokered by the government of Qatar, the Taliban handed the 28-year-old over in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, the New York Times reports. Those inmates are on their way to Qatar, where they will remain for at least one year.
Obama administration officials say that Bergdahl was able to walk and seemed to be in decent health. According to CBS News, the transfer took place in eastern Afghanistan, though Bergdahl was believed to have been held just over the border in Pakistan. About 18 members of the Taliban brought him to a group of American special forces “without incident.” From the Washington Post:
After the soldier was aboard a helicopter, he grabbed a paper plate and wrote the letters “SF?” inquiring whether the troops he was with were Special Forces, a senior Defense Department official said.
“Yes,” one of the members of the team responded. “We’ve been looking for you for a long time.”
Bergdahl broke down in tears.
Bergdahl, who was said to have been in the custody of the extremist Haqqani network, is expected to be brought to Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Field before returning home to the United States. He went missing in June 2009 after walking off of his base. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance are unclear, though Rolling Stone previously reported that he had become “disillusioned” with the military and had told his parents that he was considering desertion.