US President Barack Obama said Saturday that he welcomes the release of the lone US solider held in Afghanistan, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
During an appearance Saturday in the Rose Garden, Obama says that while Bergdahl was gone, “he was never forgotten.” The president was joined at the White House by the soldier’s parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl. The US “does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind,” he said.
Bergdahl was turned over by the Taliban earlier Saturday in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees who were held at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Obama noted that the Qatari government had given the United States security guarantees “to protect our national security” over the prisoners transferred to secure Bergdahl’s release.
The five prisoners were named by the Taliban as Mohammad Fazl, Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq. A US State Department official also confirmed their identities.
A Taliban source in the Pakistani city of Quetta told AFP that the men had all been officials in the Taliban regime driven out of power in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, and that they were influential among the Taliban ranks.
Obama did not detail exactly what security guarantees had been put in place by Qatar.
Bob Bergdahl said he could not “communicate” his emotions after Obama called him earlier Saturday to tell him and his wife their son was free.
Bergdahl said that his son was having trouble speaking English after spending so much time in Taliban captivity.
Addressing his son, Bergdahl said a common Arabic phrase uttered by Muslims before giving a speech, and a few words that appeared to be in Pashto.
“In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful,” Bob Bergdahl said in Arabic.
“I’m your father, Bowe,” he added in English after speaking the same words in Pashto from the president’s podium in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Obama said that he was proud of the US forces in Afghanistan who recovered Bergdahl and for the US diplomats who helped negotiate his release.
“Sergeant Bergdahl has missed birthdays and holidays and the simple moments with family and friends which all of us take for granted,” Obama said.
“But while Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten. His parents thought about him and prayed for him every single day.”