Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a 28-year-old soldier from Idaho, who had been held captive by the Taliban since 2009 was freed following a prisoner swap involving five Guantanamo Bay detainees. In a deal announced earlier today, President Obama thanked the Qatari government for its help in brokering the deal:
For his assistance in helping to secure our soldier's return, I extend my deepest appreciation to the Amir of Qatar. The Amir’s personal commitment to this effort is a testament to the partnership between our two countries. The United States is also grateful for the support of the Government of Afghanistan throughout our efforts to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s release."
This news caps off the grand tying up of loose ends as President Obama announced that he would draw down troops in Afghanistan, leaving roughly 10,000 soldiers through the end of the year and eventually reducing the American presence to nil by the end of 2016/his presidency. Obama also defended his foreign policy in a speech at West Point's commencement on Wednesday.
The Bergdahl saga remained on the radar throughout the few past years as rallies and awareness campaigns persisted. As we noted, the Taliban released a "proof of life" video in January, the first word about Bergdahl's status since early 2011.
In recent months, the talk about Bergdahl heated up as it was reported that his release was being negotiated. (There had also been some theories floated that Bergdahl, who was captured after reportedly leaving his base unarmed and was the only American prisoner of war from the Iraqi and Afghan wars, might be a deserter.) The initial accounts from February, which speculated that five Guantanamo detainees were being offered by the United States, ultimately held up.
With the release of Bergdahl comes bigger questions about American willingness to conduct swaps with forces like the Taliban-aligned Afghanistan Haqqani network. Those issues were immediately aired.
Relieved and happy for Bowe Bergdahl and his family, but deeply concerned about precedent set by this prisoner exchange.— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) May 31, 2014