US President Barack Obama said yesterday that an American soldier held for nearly half a decade in Afghanistan has been freed, in what officials indicated was a swap for five Guantanamo detainees.
Obama expressed his “deepest appreciation” to HH the Emir of Qatar “for his assistance in helping to secure our soldier’s return”.
“The Emir’s personal commitment to this effort is a testament to the partnership between our two countries,” Obama said.
Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 from a base in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province, with the Taliban later saying they had captured him.
The Idaho native was the only American soldier held captive by the militants.
Obama’s announcement came as Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel released a statement saying he had informed the US Congress of a decision to transfer five Guantanamo detainees to Qatar.
“The United States has co-ordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised,” Hagel said.
He also thanked HH the Emir, praising him for his “instrumental role in facilitating the return of Sgt Bergdahl”.
A senior administration official confirmed that, “in connection” with Bergdahl’s return, the United States had transferred five Afghan Guantanamo detainees to Qatar.
Bergdahl’s parents also expressed their thanks to Qatar.
“We thank the Emir of Qatar for his efforts,” Bob and Jami Bergdahl said in a statement.
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