Michael Ransom, Contributing Editor
Last Modified: 12:42 p.m. DST, 2 June 2014
AN AMERICAN SOLDIER captured in Afghanistan in 2009 is returning home. 28-year-old Bowe Bergdahl was the last prisoner of war from the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom conflicts.
His homecoming marks the end of an ongoing discussion with Taliban executives, which were largely mediated by Qatari representatives. Since 2011, the United States has actively pursued Bergdahl’s release. A recent video provided by Taliban leaders indicated the young man’s failing health.
In June of 2009, Bergdahl left his military outpost in Paktika, Afghanistan for reasons still unknown. Outside of the military stronghold, Bergdahl was captured by Taliban affiliates. Those close to the family have described Bergdahl as a sensitive, questioning young man who was struggling with aspects of his service. This, coupled with the possibility of preexisting mental health problems could help to explain his disappearance.
The nation celebrates his arrival, but Bergdahl’s release is not without a price. Five Taliban officials are scheduled to be released from Guantanamo Bay detention center and transported to Qatar. Here, the five are required to spend one year, and will be monitored to some extent.
Those safeguards are not enough to prevent their return to extremism, according to some conservative members of Congress, namely Californian Representative Howard McKeon and Oklahoman Senator James Inhofe. The two have become outspoken critics of the White House’s secret negotiations.
Among their concerns–Congress was not notified about the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees a month in advance as per federal law, and the move to bring Bergdahl out of harm’s way broke a longstanding American policy of not negotiating with terror groups.
In the years since his son’s capture, Robert Bergdahl has learned Pashto, the language widely spoken in Afghanistan. Using this new skill set, R. Bergdahl has made efforts to speak with Taliban members to arrange his son’s release.
According to officials, B. Bergdahl has spoken relatively no English in the past five years and he is having difficulty communicating in his native tongue. His father will help him in the meantime, as he adjusts to civilian life in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho.
- Hagel says U.S. acted swiftly to protect ex-POW Bowe Bergdahl’s safety (latimes.com)
- Republicans criticize prisoner swap that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (latimes.com)
- ‘We love you,’ Bergdahl parents tell freed son (sbs.com.au)
- Bowe Bergdahl freed by Taliban in exchange for Guantanamo Bay prisoners (oregonlive.com)
- Bergdahl’s trade for detainees sparks debate (ktvb.com)