WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama welcomed Saturday the release of the only American soldier that was being held in Afghanistan, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
During an appearance in the Rose Garden, Obama said that while Bergdahl was gone, “he was never forgotten.”
The 28-year-old from Hailey, Idaho had been held as prisoner of war since June 30, 2009, CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported.
The president was joined at the White House by the soldier’s parents, Bob and Joni Bergdahl.
Bergdahl was turned over by the Taliban earlier Saturday in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees who were held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Obama said the U.S., “does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”
Bergdahl’s father thanked all those who took part in his son’s recovery, saying it was difficult to put his feelings into words.
During his captivity, the Taliban released videos showing Bergdahl was alive. They also had him describe how he was being treated.
“They never deprived me of food and water. They always made sure I had plenty of it,” he said in one video.
Upon his release, Bergdahl appeared to be in good condition and was able to walk, Hsu reported.
In a statement released ahead of Obama’s comments, Bergdahl’s parents said “We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son.”
A senior defense official said once Bergdahl was on board a U.S. military helicopter, he wrote “S-F?” asking if he was with special operations forces.
They replied yes and said “We’ve been looking for you for a long time.” Realizing he was free, Bergdahl broke down in tears, Hsu reported.
The circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture in 2009 remain unclear.
As for the Taliban detainees released in exchange, they must remain under close watch in Qatar for at least the next year.
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