Under the agreement, the Talibans also agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any
other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.
The US invaded Afghanistan after the
9/11 attacks in New York by the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda group.
More than 2,400 US troops have been
killed during the conflict. About 12,000 are still stationed in Afghanistan.
President Donald Trump has promised to put an end to the conflict.
The deal was signed by US special
envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar
with Mike Pompeo as a witness.
In a speech, Mike Pompeo urged the
militant group to “keep your promises to cut ties with al-Qaeda”.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said he
hoped Afghanistan could now emerge from four decades of conflict.
Meanwhile Defense Secretary Mark Esper was in the Afghan capital Kabul
alongside Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani – whose government did not take
part in the US-Taliban talks.
Mark Esper said: “This is a
hopeful moment, but it is only the beginning. The road ahead will not be easy.
Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan will require patience and compromise
among all parties.”
He said the US would continue to support the Afghan government.
President Ghani said Afghanistan was “looking forward to a full ceasefire”.
The government said it was ready to negotiate with the Taliban.
Within the first 135 days of the deal the US will reduce its forces in
Afghanistan to 8,600, with allies also drawing down their forces
The move would allow President Donald Trump to show that he has brought
troops home ahead of the US presidential election in November.
The deal also provides for a prisoner swap. Some 5,000 Taliban prisoners and
1,000 Afghan security force prisoners would be exchanged by March 10, when
talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are due to start.
The US will also lift sanctions against the Taliban and work with the UN to lift its separate sanctions against the group.
President Donald Trump has ruled out a US withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying that the move would leave a vacuum for terrorists to fill.
Donald Trump said his original instinct was to pull US forces out, but had instead decided to stay and “fight to win” to avoid the mistakes made in Iraq.
The president said he wanted to shift from a time-based approach in Afghanistan to one based on conditions on the ground, adding he would not set deadlines.
However, President Trump warned it was not a “blank cheque” for Afghanistan.
He said: “America will work with the Afghan government, so long as we see commitment and progress.”
The Taliban responded by saying that Afghanistan would become “another graveyard” for the US if it did not withdraw its troops.
President Trump has committed to stepping up the US military’s engagement in Afghanistan, but details were few and far between.
The president said his new approach would be more pragmatic than idealistic, and would switch from nation building to “killing terrorists”.
However, Donald Trump refused to get drawn on how many extra troops, if any, would be deployed and gave no timeline for ending the US presence in Afghanistan.
Washington is expected to send up to 4,000 additional troops, but President Trump did not comment on this.
He did, however, put pressure on neighboring Pakistan, warning that the US would no longer tolerate it offering “safe havens” to extremists – an accusation swiftly dismissed by a Pakistani army spokesman.
President Trump also, for the first time, left the door open for an eventual peace deal with the Taliban, saying: “Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
However, he said there would be an escalation in the battle against groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
“[They] need to know they have nowhere to hide – that no place is beyond the reach of American arms,” President Trump said.
Meanwhile, he made it clear he expects his existing allies – singling out India – to support him in his new strategy, and urged them to raise their countries’ contributions “in line with our own”.
Before his presidency, Donald Trump was not shy about criticizing his predecessors on their Afghanistan policy. He previously supported pulling US troops out of the conflict, which began under President George W. Bush in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.
In November 2013, he said: “We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!”
However, early on in his presidential campaign, he did acknowledge that US troops would have to stay in order to avoid the total collapse of the Afghan government.
This long-awaited announcement came after a months-long review, with the president himself acknowledging that his original instinct to pull-out had been reversed after discussions with national security advisers.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the plan, saying: “The US-Afghan partnership is stronger than ever in overcoming the threat of terrorism that threaten us all.”
He said the new strategy would enhance the training of Afghan security forces.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also praised the move and said the alliance, which has about 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, would not allow the country to become “a safe haven for terrorists who would attack our own countries”.
General John Nicholson, the head of both US and international forces in Afghanistan, said it “means the Taliban cannot win militarily”.
However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid dismissed President Trump’s strategy as “nothing new”, telling the US to think of an exit strategy “instead of continuing the war”.
US combat operations against the Taliban officially ended in 2014, more than 8,000 Special Forces continue to provide support to Afghan troops.
The Afghan government continues to battle insurgency groups and controls just half of the country.
Sgt Bowe Bergdahl will face a general court-martial for desertion and other charges.
The US soldier was held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
General Robert Abrams overruled a previous recommendation that the case be moved to a lower court with a maximum penalty of 12 months of prison.
Sgt Bowe Bergdahl now could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.
He was released in exchange for five Taliban officials held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2014.
The 29-year-old gave the first public account of his story last week to the podcast Serial.
The podcast ran excerpts of an interview, in which Bowe Bergdahl claims that he left his base without permission in order to create a crisis and highlight poor leadership within his unit.
Bowe Bergdahl’s release, initially cheered by President Barack Obama and other officials, quickly became controversial when critics said it ran contrary to policy against negotiating with terrorists.
With news that the recommendation had been disregarded, his lawyer Eugene Fidell sent an email to reporters on behalf of the defense team saying he “had hoped the case would not go in this direction”.
In the same email, Eugene Fidell called upon leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to “cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation against our client”. Donald Trump has in the past accused Bowe Bergdahl of treason.
Eugene Fidell also asked members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to “avoid any further statements or actions that prejudice our client’s right to a fair trial”.
Five Guantanamo detainees were swapped for the soldier, when Bowe Bergdahl was freed in May 2014. He had spent almost five years in Taliban captivity, after he walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009.
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee accused President Barack Obama of misleading them over the prisoner swap.
The charges were filed against Bowe Bergdahl in March, and his case was recommended for the lower court in October.
On July 29, Afghanistan’s secret services have confirmed that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has been dead for two or three years in a Pakistani hospital, although this has not been confirmed by the Taliban.
Mullah Omar was a reclusive figure even before his Taliban government was driven from power in late 2001 and he was forced into hiding – very few images of him exist.
There have been several reports in the past that Mullah Omar had died.
A statement purporting to be from Mullah Omar was released in July backing peace talks with the Afghan government. The last audio message thought to be from him appeared in 2006 but even this was leaked and not meant for public consumption.
In April 2015, the Taliban published a biography of Mullah Omar, saying he was alive and still supreme leader of the movement, as he had been since 1996.
Taliban say Mullah Omar was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat, in Kandahar province.
He fought in resistance against Soviet occupation in 1980s, suffering a shrapnel injury to his right eye.
He also forged close ties to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
Mullah Omar became “supreme leader” of Taliban movement in 1996.
US-led forces overthrew his government in 2001; US state department has a $10 million bounty on him.
The biography says he does not own a home and has no foreign bank account, and saying he “has a special sense of humor”
The Afghan Taliban have published a surprise biography of the reclusive Mullah Mohammed Omar, to mark his 19th year as their supreme leader.
The 5,000-word biography on their main website clarifies disputed facts about his birth and upbringing.
It lists his favorite weapon – the RPG 7 – and says he leads a simple life and has a “special” sense of humor.
It says Mullah Omar, whose whereabouts were unknown, “remains in touch” with day-to-day Afghan and world events.
The US state department has a $10 million bounty on Mullah Omar, who has not been seen since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
It was Mullah Omar’s backing for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden that sparked the campaign.
It is unclear why the Taliban have chosen the 19th anniversary of his supreme leadership to publish the biography but some analysts say it may be an attempt to counter the growing influence of Islamic State in Afghanistan.
Commentators and Taliban watchers have been unable to agree on many facts about Mullah Omar, including his birth and heritage.
The biography says he was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat, in the Khakrez district of Kandahar province, in the south of the country.
It refers to the supreme leader as Mullah Mohammad Umar “Mujahid” and says he is from the Tomzi clan of the Hotak tribe.
It says his father was Moulavi Ghulam Nabi, a “respected erudite and social figure” who died five years after Mohammed Omar’s birth. The family moved to Uruzgan province.
The biography says Mullah Omar abandoned his studies in a madrassa school after the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan and became a jihadist “to discharge his religious obligation”.
It lists his military feats fighting the Russians between 1983 and 1991, saying he was wounded four times and lost his right eye.
In 1994, Mullah Omar took over leading the Islamic mujahideen to tackle the “factional fighting” among warlords that followed the collapse of the communist regime in 1992.
Then in 1996 he was conferred the title “ameer-ul-momineen” (head of the pious believers), the biography says, becoming supreme leader.
After taking Kabul and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the biography tells of the “arrogant infidel powers of the world” who “could not tolerate Sharia law” and launched a joint military invasion.
In a section on his “charismatic personality”, the biography says Mullah Omar is tranquil and does not lose either temper or courage, does not own a home and has no foreign bank account and is affable, has a special sense of humor and never considers himself superior to his colleagues.
In a section entitled His daily activities in the present circumstances, the biography says: “In the present crucial conditions and regularly being tracked by the enemy, no major change and disruption has been observed in the routine works of [Mullah Omar].”
It says he “keenly follows and inspects the jihadi activities against the brutal infidel foreign invaders” adding: “He remains in touch with the day-to-day happenings of his country as well as the outside world.”
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is expected to submit to questioning next week by the US Army general probing the circumstances that led to the his 2009 capture by the Taliban, his attorney said on Tuesday.
Freed prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl was introduced to the investigating officer, Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, and is expected to be questioned by him next week in Texas in an informal setting, said the soldier’s lawyer, Eugene Fidell.
“They’ve said hello to one another. It was literally a meeting to introduce themselves to one another,” said Eugene Fidell, a military law expert who lectures at Yale University.
Bowe Bergdahl was released in May in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who were transferred to Qatar from the Guantanamo Bay US prison in Cuba.
Bowe Bergdahl was introduced to the investigating officer, Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, and is expected to be questioned by him next week in Texas in an informal setting
Critics have questioned whether the Obama administration paid too high a price and whether Bowe Bergdahl had deserted his combat outpost in Afghanistan before his capture.
Bowe Bergdahl, 28, has completed counseling and a reintegration program and been assigned a desk job at a Texas military base as the Army investigates events that led to five years of imprisonment by captors whom Eugene Fidell has described as ruthless killers.
Eugene Fidell is to advise Bowe Bergdahl during the session with the Army general probing the case, and Kenneth R. Dahl is expected to have his own legal counsel present as well, he said.
The investigation was to be completed 60 days from the time of Kenneth R. Dahl’s appointment on June 16 but an extended deadline may be needed, Eugene Fidell said.
“There may be an extension in this case. It’s a complicated matter with a lot of witnesses,” he said.
A senior Army officer has said the purpose of the probe was to determine facts and circumstances surrounding Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance up to the point of capture.
Kenneth R. Dahl’s finding and recommendations will be presented to the director of Army staff, who is not bound by the conclusions and who could issue his own determinations and recommendations.
Eugene Fidell said Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, is to remain under the Army’s authority pending the outcome of the inquiry.
The US army has opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance from an Afghan outpost.
Major General Kenneth Dahl, who served in combat in Afghanistan, has been appointed to lead the investigation.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, returned to the US after five years in captivity on Friday.
Shortly after his release, several commentators and soldiers came forward to brand him a deserter and call for him to be punished.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returned to the US after five years in captivity
The Pentagon has previously concluded Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked off base in Paktika province without authorization, but officials have not determined whether he intended to desert.
Bowe Bergdahl was flown from a military hospital in Germany to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas on Friday, where he will complete the final phase of the reintegration process.
He was released by the Taliban in late May in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, a move that has been criticized by some lawmakers.
In a statement, the defense department said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl would have access to evidence gathered in 2009 shortly after Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured.
But officials will not be able to interview him until a team working on his “reintegration” will allow it.
“We ask that everyone respect the time and privacy necessary to accomplish the objectives of the last phase of reintegration,” the department said in a statement, adding there is no timeline for wrapping up the investigation.
On Friday, Maj. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo said Bowe Bergdahl “looked good” as he returned to Texas and was in uniform and saluted.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had not yet been in contact with his family, which officials described as his own choice.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed last month after five years in Taliban captivity, is in a stable condition in hospital in Texas, officials have said.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, arrived in the US from Germany early on Friday and was taken to a military medical center for the next part of his reintegration.
He “looked good”, was in uniform, and saluted, Maj. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo said.
Bowe Bergdahl has not yet been in contact with his family, which officials described as his own choice.
“He appeared just like any sergeant would when they see a two-star general – a little bit nervous,” Gen. Josepg DiSalvo said.
“But he looked good, saluted, and had good deportment.”
Bowe Bergdahl has not yet been in contact with his family, which officials described as his own choice
Bowe Bergdahl arrived at about 01:40 local time and was subsequently driven in a three-vehicle convoy to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.
Army officers also said Bowe Bergdahl had not yet been in contact with his parents, Robert and Jani Bergdahl, who are not in Texas.
“Family support is a critical part of the reintegration process,” Army psychologist Col. Bradley Poppen said.
“Overall, though it is a returnee’s choice to determine when, where and who they want to re-engage with socially, and I believe the family understands that process at this point in time.”
In the near future, Bowe Bergdahl will work with medical staff on reintegration, the progress of which will be driven by the soldier himself.
“There is no set timeline,” Joseph DiSalvo said.
The focus of reintegration will be on re-equipping the soldier, who is staying in a hospital room, with an “appropriate level of mental and physical stability to effectively resume normal activities with minimal physical and emotional complications”, he said.
Col. Bradley Poppen said: “What we are trying to do is get him to recognize that the coping skills he used to survive this long, five-year ordeal may not be healthy and functional now.”
Bowe Bergdahl has not yet been made aware of the media coverage of the circumstances of his disappearance from a military base in Afghanistan in 2009 nor of the controversy over the deal that saw him exchanged for five senior Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“Anything surrounding the controversy of his disappearance is not part of his reintegration,” Gen. Joseph DiSalvo said.
Shortly after Bowe Bergdahl’s release, several commentators and soldiers came forward to brand him a deserter and call for him to be punished.
Critics of the prisoner swap, which include some Democrats, have objected to the fact Congress was not given notice of the deal. They say the Taliban detainees are too dangerous to free.
The Pentagon has concluded he left his post in Paktika province without authorization but it is unclear if he intended to desert. The Army has said it will investigate the circumstances of his capture, leaving open the possibility he could be prosecuted for misconduct.
An Army review of the matter will take place after Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s treatment has finished, officials said.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will return to the US on Friday, officials have said.
Bowe Bergdahl, 28, will fly to a military medical centre in Texas for the next part of what the military calls a “reintegration mission”.
Officials previously said he would be reunited with his family there.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed on May 31 in exchange for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo bay, a deal criticized by the Republicans.
He has been recuperating at a military hospital in Germany since his release.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will return to the US on Friday
Critics of the prisoner swap, which include some Democrats, have objected to the fact Congress was not given notice of the deal, and they say the detainees are too dangerous to free.
Shortly after his release, several commentators and soldiers came forward to brand him a deserter and call for him to be punished.
The Pentagon has concluded he left his post in Paktika Province without authorisation but it is unclear if he intended to desert from the Army. The Army has said it will investigate the circumstances of his capture, leaving open the possibility he could be prosecuted for misconduct.
His family has received death threats and a welcoming party in his hometown in the state of Utah was cancelled amid safety concerns.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has not made any public comment since his release, but on Thursday, the Daily Beast website published a letter it said was one of two the soldier sent to his parents during his captivity through the International Red Cross.
In the letter, Bowe Bergdahl says he left because conditions were deteriorating at the base.
Excerpts of Bowe Bergdahl’s journals sent to a friend before he went missing, published by the Washington Post, suggest a young soldier struggling to handle the mental stress of war.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be prosecuted if he abandoned his post before his capture, a top-ranking military has said.
General Martin Dempsey wrote Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, “is innocent until proven guilty”.
But he said the Army would not dismiss “misconduct if it occurred”.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama defended his decision to free five senior Taliban leaders to secure Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release on Saturday after five years in Taliban captivity.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be prosecuted if he abandoned his post before his capture (photo Wikipedia)
In Warsaw, Barack Obama said the US had a “pretty sacred rule” not to leave soldiers behind, arguing that the most important consideration was to bring home a young American held captive for five years.
“We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind and that dates back to the earliest days,” Barack Obama said at a news conference.
“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that.”
Since Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release on Saturday, a growing chorus of opposition Republicans have criticized the president’s decision to order the prisoner swap.
They have attacked the president for undertaking what they describe as negotiations with terrorists, and say the transfer of five Taliban senior prisoners from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar, puts Americans at risk.
And some have accused the president of contravening a law requiring the White House to notify Congress 30 days in advance of any transfers of prisoners from Guantanamo.
In Poland, Barack Obama said his administration had consulted Congress “for some time” about the possibility of a prisoner exchange, though he acknowledged Congress was not briefed ahead of time on the operation.
“We saw an opportunity, we were concerned about Sgt Bergdahl’s health… and we seized that opportunity,” he said.
On his Facebook page, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, wrote the operation was “likely the last, best opportunity to free him”.
“As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts,” he wrote.
“Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.”
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho is in stable condition in a military hospital in Germany.
He went missing from a remote base in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, in June 2009. After mounting an intensive effort to locate and rescue him, the Pentagon concluded Bowe Bergdahl had intentionally abandoned his post before his capture, US media have reported. Efforts to win his release moved from the field to the negotiating table.
Since Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s rescue, the reaction from Republicans has grown increasingly hostile.
Republicans and Democrats have clashed over the deal to swap five Guantanamo Bay detainees for a Taliban-held soldier, with Republicans warning it could put American lives at risk.
Senator John McCain said the detainees, who were transferred to Qatar, were some of the “highest high-risk people”.
Afghanistan also attacked the deal, saying handing prisoners to a third country was against international law.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, was handed to US forces in Afghanistan on Saturday.
In an emotional address on Sunday, his father, Robert Bergdahl, said he was proud how far his son was willing to go to help the Afghan people, but warned that his recovery would take a long time.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was the only US soldier being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan
Robert Bergdahl said he and his wife had not yet spoken to their son, who is in a good condition and currently undergoing medical care at a US military hospital in Germany.
Several Republicans have spoken out against the deal, warning that it set a worrying precedent and amounted to negotiating with terrorists.
John McCain said the Taliban released were “possibly responsible for the deaths of thousands” and may have “the ability to re-enter the fight”, in comments to CBS TV.
Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, told CNN that Washington had “now set a price” for al-Qaeda ransom threats.
Chuck Hagel: “No shots were fired – it went as well as it could have.”
Republican representative Adam Kinzinger said he would celebrate Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s return but called the release of the Taliban men “shocking”.
Questions were raised over the legality of the deal, after the Obama administration did not give Congress sufficient notice about the transfer of the Taliban detainees.
However, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is currently in Afghanistan, dismissed allegations of wrongdoing, saying the military had to act quickly “to essentially save his life”.
“We didn’t negotiate with terrorists… As I said and explained before, Sergeant Bergdahl was a prisoner of war. That’s a normal process in getting your prisoners back,” he told NBC TV.
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s failing health had created an “acute urgency” to act and therefore made it “necessary and appropriate” not to adhere to the 30-day notification requirement.
The Afghan government, which was not informed of the deal until after the exchange had taken place, condemned it as a “breach of international law” and urged the US and Qatar to “let the men go free”.
The five detainees are thought to be the most senior Afghans held at the US detention facility in Cuba, having been captured during America’s military campaign in 2001.
In a rare public statement on Sunday, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar described the exchange as a “big victory”.
President Barack Obama said that he had received security guarantees from Qatar – which mediated the deal – “that it will put in place measures to protect our national security”.
They have been banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was the only US soldier being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was serving with an infantry regiment in Paktika province, near the Pakistani border, when he went missing on June 30 2009.
President Barack Obama has announced that he received security guarantees from Qatar over five Guantanamo Bay prisoners who were transferred to secure the release of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, 28, was handed to US forces after being held for nearly five years by the Taliban.
He has left Afghanistan and is en route to a US military hospital in Germany.
Five Afghan detainees were released from the US prison in Cuba and handed to Qatar, which mediated the deal.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is said to be in good condition, was the only US soldier being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
His parents said they were “joyful and relieved” to hear of their son’s release.
Barack Obama was joined at the White House by Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s parents, Robert and Jani (photo AP)
Hours after the release, President Barack Obama told reporters the Qatari government had given the US assurances “that it will put in place measures to protect our national security”.
He also thanked the Qatari authorities for their role in acting as a go-between during indirect US-Taliban negotiations that led to the deal.
The exchanged prisoners are thought to be the most senior Afghans still held at Guantanamo. Under the deal, they will be banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year.
The Taliban said they welcomed their release with “great happiness”.
“While Sgt. Bergdahl was gone he was never forgotten,” Barack Obama said, adding that the US had an “ironclad commitment” to bringing home its prisoners of war.
He was joined by Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s parents, Robert and Jani, at the White House on Saturday. They offered thanks to those who took part in securing their son’s freedom.
In an emotional speech, Robert Bergdahl said his son was having trouble speaking English after his rescue.
Officials said the Taliban had handed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over on Saturday evening, local time, in eastern Afghanistan, in an exchange that involved several dozen US special forces.
Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was captured on June 30 2009, about two months after arriving in eastern Afghanistan.
In January, the US military obtained a new video of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, giving his family renewed hope of his eventual return.
US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for nearly five years, has been freed in deal that includes the release of five Afghan detainees, US officials say.
The 28-year-old soldier was handed over to US forces in good health, the officials said.
The five Afghan detainees have been released from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
They were handed over to Qatar, which mediated the transfer.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for nearly five years
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was the only US soldier being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Officials said he was in good condition and able to walk. He is expected to be transferred to Bagram Air Field, the main US base in Afghanistan, and then on to the United States.
President Barack Obama said in a statement that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s recovery “is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield”.
Officials said the Taliban had handed him over on Saturday evening, local time, in eastern Afghanistan. Several dozen US special forces were involved in the exchange, they said, which took place near the Pakistani border.
Once aboard the US helicopter, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl wrote the letters SF – meaning special operations forces – followed by a question mark on a paper plate and showed them to the pilots, who replied: “Yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time.”
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, had been held since June 30, 2009.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl would be given “all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal, and we are grateful that he will soon be reunited with his family”.
He thanked the emir of Qatar for his role in enabling the transfer to take place.
On the five Guantanamo detainees, Chuck Hagel said: “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.”
At least 32 militants including “important commanders” have been killed in North Waziristan air strikes.
Pakistani officials described precision air strikes on targets near the border with Afghanistan.
Tens of thousands of Pakistanis have died in bomb attacks since the Pakistani Taliban began its campaign against the central government in 2007.
At least 32 militants including important commanders have been killed in North Waziristan air strikes
Several offensives have been launched against the militants, but the government is also pursuing talks.
“Before the launch of the air strikes, we had confirmed intelligence information about hideouts of the militants and their top commanders,” said a senior military official in Miranshah quoted by the Reuters news agency.
The army said in a statement that the strikes were targeting militants involved in attacks against Pakistani armed forces and Pakistani soldiers.
At least nine soldiers were killed and several critically wounded by a roadside bomb in the region earlier this month.
There have been similar air strikes since the beginning of the year, but this operation appears to have been the largest in a while.
North Waziristan, one of seven lawless tribal districts in Pakistan’s north-west, is a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants.
The peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban stalled after one round of negotiations in February, and a 40-day ceasefire between the two sides came to an end in mid-April.
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