The last and only American prisoner of the Afghan war was released to American forces Saturday, after nearly five years in captivity, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released in good condition to American Special Operations forces in Afghanistan around 10:30 a.m. by a group of 19 Taliban, The New York Times reports. The five Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo were in the process of being released to officials from Qatar, and will return there with security restrictions.
When Bergdahl was safely aboard the American military helicopter, he reportedly asked via a pen and paper plate (because of the noise) if his rescuers were American Special Forces. One soldier yelled back, “Yes, we’ve been looking for you a long time,” at which point, the Times reports, Bergdahl broke down crying.
Bergdahl was captured by insurgents in Paktika Province in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and is believed to have been held in Pakistan’s northwest frontier on the Afghan border by the militant Haqqani network. It’s unclear how he was captured.
The last evidence Bergdahl was alive came in a video obtained by the American military in January, which showed him in declining health. Talks of the exchange resumed about a week ago with Qatari officials acting as intermediaries for the Taliban prisoners.
President Obama called the soldier’s parents Saturday once Bergdahl had been transferred to the American military.
“Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield,” he said in a statement.