UK & World News

  • 2 June 2014, 8:28

Parents' Emotional Address To Freed US Soldier

The parents of a US soldier released by the Taliban after being held hostage for five years have made an emotional public address to their son.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's mother and father have been unable to speak to him directly since he was freed on Saturday.

Speaking at a news conference in Boise, Idaho, Jani Bergdahl said: "I am so looking forward to seeing your face after these last five and a half years.

"And giving you a great big bear hug, holding you in my arms again, not wanting to let you go.

"Give yourself all of the time you need to recover and decompress. There is no hurry. You have your life ahead of you."

Sgt Bergdahl's father said his recovery from the Afghanistan ordeal was a "work in progress" and must be carefully planned.

But Mr Begdahl added his 28-year-old son was "very resilient" and has "passed through all the checkpoints with flying colours".

"When you're ready to hear this and when you see this, I hope your English is coming back and I want you to know that I love you," said Mr Begdahl.

Officials had to act quickly to obtain his release and Sgt Bergdahl's "safety and health" had both been in jeopardy, according to US defence chief Chuck Hagel.

His freedom was dependent on the US releasing five high-level Afghan detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the custody of officials in Qatar.

The prisoner exchange raised eyebrows in Washington, with Republican Senator John McCain claiming those released were "high risk" and "possibly responsible for the deaths of thousands".

"These are the hardest of the hard core," he said. "These are the highest high-risk people. It is disturbing that these individuals would have the ability to re-enter the fight."

Former CIA director Porter Goss is also concerned.

"We will pay a price on it, down the road, in my view," he said.

"There will be consequences to this, in addition to the fact that I think it was a heavy price to take five really bad guys and trade them for one of our guys."

Republican lawmakers are also questioning President Barack Obama's authority to sign-off on the deal without providing 30-days' notice to Congress.

But Mr Hagel told reporters that closing the deal quickly was necessary because intelligence indicated that Sgt Bergdahl's health was "deteriorating".

As part of the deal the government of Qatar, which served as the go-between in the negotiations, agreed to take custody of the five Afghan detainees.

Under the conditions of their release, they will be banned from travelling outside Qatar for at least a year.

Mr Obama said: "The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security."

Sgt Bergdahl was taken prisoner in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.

After undergoing a medical evaluation at Bagram Air Field, Sgt Bergdahl was transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany.

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