WASHINGTON President Barack Obama on Saturday announced that U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had been released after being held for nearly five years by the Taliban.
Following are texts of the president's written statement as well as written statements issued by Bergdahl's parents, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Statement by Obama:
"Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years. On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal. Today we also remember the many troops held captive and whom remain missing or unaccounted for in America’s past wars. Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield. And as we find relief in Bowen's recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue.
"For his assistance in helping to secure our soldier's return, I extend my deepest appreciation to the Amir of Qatar. The Amir’s personal commitment to this effort is a testament to the partnership between our two countries. The United States is also grateful for the support of the Government of Afghanistan throughout our efforts to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s release.
"This week the United States renewed its commitment to the Afghan people and made clear that we will continue to support them as they chart their own future. The United States also remains committed to supporting an Afghan-led reconciliation process as the surest way to achieve a stable, secure, sovereign, and unified Afghanistan. While we are mindful of the challenges, it is our hope Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery could potentially open the door for broader discussions among Afghans about the future of their country by building confidence that it is possible for all sides to find common ground."
Statement by parents Bob and Jani Bergdahl:
"We were so joyful and relieved when President Obama called us today to give us the news that Bowe is finally coming home! We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son. We want to thank Bowe’s many supporters in Idaho, around the nation and around the world. We thank the Amir of Qatar for his efforts. And of course, we want to take this opportunity to thank all those in the many U.S. Government agencies who never gave up. Today, we are ecstatic!”
Statement by Hagel:
"A few hours ago, the family of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was informed by President Obama that their long wait for his return will soon be over. Sgt. Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military after being handed over by his captors in Afghanistan. We will give him 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.
"Also today, I informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar. The United States has coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised. I appreciate the efforts of the Emir of Qatar to put these measures in place, and I want to thank him for his instrumental role in facilitating the return of Sgt. Bergdahl.
"Sgt. Bergdahl's return is a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform. The United States government never forgot Sgt. Bergdahl, nor did we stop working to bring him back. I am grateful to all the military and civilian professionals from DoD and our interagency partners who helped make this moment possible, and to all those Americans who stood vigil with the Bergdahl family."
Statement by Kerry:
"The responsibility to make sure all of our men and women in uniform return from battle, especially those taken prisoner and held during war, is deeply personal to me as someone who has worn the uniform of my country – and as someone who was deeply involved in those efforts with respect to the unfinished business of the war in which I fought. Our nation has a sober and solemn duty to ensure that every single American who signs up to serve our country comes home. The cost of years of captivity to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and his family is immeasurable. Today, we are heartened that Sergeant Bergdahl will soon by reunited with his family and friends, from whom he has been apart for far too long.
"I extend my personal gratitude to the Government of Qatar – and especially to the Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani – who played such an instrumental role in returning Sergeant Bergdahl home. We work every day with Qatar on a range of critical foreign policy priorities. This effort – one that was personally so close to our hearts here – exemplifies how vital our partnership with Qatar is and will remain.
"I spoke today with Afghan President Karzai to brief him on this development and to discuss President Obama’s announcement this week about our efforts there. As we look to the future in Afghanistan, the United States will continue to support steps that improve the climate for conversations between Afghans about how to end the bloodshed in their country through an Afghan-led reconciliation process. As we’ve said, we look forward to working with the next President of Afghanistan and to standing side-by-side with the Afghan Government and the Afghan people as they build a secure, stable, sovereign, and unified country."
(Prepared by Will Dunham; Editing by Nick Zieminski)