Bowe Bergdahl could be reunited with his family as soon as Wednesday, part of a carefully managed reintegration program the military uses for freed captives. Bergdahl is being debriefed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany after a harrowing five-year captivity and dramatic release.
His release came Saturday, with U.S. drones and helicopters overhead in case the deal turned deadly. A team of so-called “black” U.S. special operators – those who are part of the most secretive missions – moved deep into Khost Province in Afghanistan for the prearranged meeting.
Close to 20 Taliban surrounded Bergdahl – a tense exchange, but no shots were fired as the 28-year-old was hustled into a waiting helicopter, officials said.
When airborne, Bergdahl scribbled with a pen, “SF?” meaning Special Forces.
“Yes,” the commandos responded, adding, “We’ve been looking for you for a long time.”
Bergdahl broke down in tears.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban June 30, 2009, after, sources say, he walked away from his remote base, leaving his weapon behind. Taliban videos soon followed, showing the desperate young soldier pleading for freedom.
“Let me go … This war isn’t worth the waste of human life that it’s cost both Afghanistan and U.S.,” he said in one video released in April 2010. “Release me, please. I’m begging you. Bring me home. Bring us all home.”
Back in Idaho, his parents remained just as desperate. His father, Bob, grew a long beard and spoke in Pashto directly to the Taliban and to Bowe.
U.S. sources say that Bergdahl was being held in Pakistan, in a city, so a rescue would have been extremely difficult.
The exchange was supposed to have happened weeks ago, a U.S. official told ABC News. But that deal fell apart.
When a new opportunity emerged, authorities seized the chance to rescue Bergdahl. About three after Bergdahl was released, the United States freed the five high-ranking Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay, sending them to Qatar and leaving the Taliban claiming victory.
Lingering questions still surround Bergdahl’s disappearance. United States National Security Adviser Susan Rice appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” saying Bergdahl’s safe return was the main priority.
“We’ll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years,” Rice said. “But what is most important now is his health and well-being.”