Oren Dorrell / USA Today
President Obama announced Saturday the release of U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive for nearly five years in Afghanistan.
"On behalf of the American people I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return," Obama said in a statement distributed by the White House.
Obama thanked the emir of Qatar, whose "personal commitment to this effort is a testament to the partnership between our two countries," and expressed hope Bergdahl's release would portend well on the prospects for peace and reconciliation in 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," he said.
Bergdahl, 28, of Hailey, Idaho, was serving in a parachute infantry regiment of the the Army's 25th Infantry Division, when he was captured in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.
He is now under the care of the U.S. military after being handed over by his captors in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement.
"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," Hagel said.
Hagel also said he informed Congress today that the USA is transferring five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar, which has agreed to ensure that security measures are in place and that the national security of the United States will not be compromised, he said.
"I want to thank him for his instrumental role in facilitating the return of Sgt. Bergdahl," Hagel said, referring to the emir of Qatar.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military ethos is "that we never leave a fallen comrade."
"Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan," Dempsey said. "Welcome home Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl."
Bergdahl's release comes as the USA plans to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, ending a war that began after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with the goal of ousting al-Qaeda and the Taliban Afghan regime that gave it refuge. The USA hopes to establish a peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which continues to fight an insurgency against U.S. and Afghan government troops.
Secretary of State John Kerry said he briefed Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday on Bergdahl's release.
"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," Kerry said.
According to a transcript of insurgent radio intercepts obtained by Wikileaks, insurgents said he was sitting unarmed in a latrine at the time of his capture in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province in 2009, CBS reported. Voices on the recording described an ongoing search by Americans, the Afghan National Army, helicopters and planes. "Can you guys make a video of him and announce it all over Afghanistan that we have one of the Americans?"
The Taliban later released multiple videos of Bergdahl, looking gaunt and anxious.