Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom has come as a big relief for his family, and the US government, after the US completed a swap deal of the soldier that had been held in captivity by members of the Taliban.
For five years, he had been held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan, appearing in a few videos, in which he pleaded for his release.
After a deal, spanning three years, according to the US government, Sergeant Bergdahl was freed on Saturday, May 31.
A US defence official said he was able to walk, and became emotional on his way to freedom, after being handed over to US special forces in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday.
But his release came at a cost. Five of the Taliban’s top members would be released to the Qatari government, from the US correctional facility in Cuba.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah, praised the efforts of Qatari negotiators, who worked to secure the release, alongside the US government.
“His highness, the emir, directed the concerned authorities in the state to start this mediation, which succeeded after long negotiations. I have to thank Qatar’s negotiating team who made effort to achieve this result according to the best traditions followed by Qatar’s policy in humanitarian efforts. In this specific case, it was for a humanitarian cause,” al-Attiyah said.
US military aircraft flew the five Taliban detainees to Qatar. The men, who had been held at the US naval base at Guantanamo bay, Cuba, since 2002, were classed by the pentagon as ‘high risk’ and ‘likely to pose a threat’
According to the US military, two were also implicated in the murder of thousands of minority Shi’ite Muslims in Afghanistan.
The Taliban denied the prisoners would return to battle, but said the swap should both be regarded as a gesture of goodwill or a step towards the revival of peace talks between Islamist insurgents and Afghan government.
While the afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, issued a rare public statement on Sunday, hailing the exchange of the detainees, describing it as a ‘big victory’, members of the Afghan parliament and residents of Kabul are concerned that it could enhance terrorism in Afghanistan and cause violence. It is seen as something that will no doubt affect the Afghan government, its people and the American government in a negative way.
But the US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, is hopeful the prisoner swap would lead to more negotiations with the Taliban.
“Our primary focus, as you all know, was getting Sergeant Bergdahl released,” Hagel said.
‘Breach Of International Law’
Bergdahl’s release came days after Obama outlined a plan last Tuesday to withdraw all but 9,800 American soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of the year and the rest by 2016, ending more than a decade of US military engagement.
However, the Afghan government, it seems, was sidelined in the deal, with President Hamid Karzai saying he was informed only after the swap.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists that handing over prisoners to a third country is a breach of international law. It said: “We are strongly opposed to it. We want Qatar and the US government to let the men go free”.
But back home in the US, is a debate heating up on the prisoner swap.
Senator John Mccain said the detainees, were some ‘highest high-risk people.’ But, republican representative, Adam Kinzinger, said he would celebrate Sgt. Bergdahl’s return, but called the release of the Afghans ‘shocking’.