This still image provided on Dec. 7, 2010, by IntelCenter shows Bowe Bergdahl with a Taliban commander. / AFP/Getty Images
After nearly five years in captivity by the Taliban, U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released May 31.
Who is Bergdahl?
Bergdahl was the only known American prisoner of war in the Afghanistan war. He is from Hailey, Idaho, and was 23 years old when he disappeared from his base in southeastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.
The U.S. government said it believes Bergdahl was in Pakistan for most of his time in captivity. Since his capture, Bergdahl has appeared in several videos released by the Taliban.
Why was Bergdahl released?
President Obama released five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl. U.S. intelligence revealed Bergdahl's health was deteriorating and the trade was made "essentially to save his life," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The administration's national security team was unanimous in support of the exchange.
What happened during the release?
The United States and the Taliban had started negotiating indirectly through the government of Qatar in November. Several dozen special operations troops were involved, and there was the potential for violence with the presence of 18 armed Taliban members. No shots were fired and the exchange went as well as could be expected, Hagel said. Bergdahl was flown to an Army hospital in Landstahl, Germany, for evaluation before he returns to the United States.
Later in the day, the five Guantanamo detainees were flown to Qatar. The detainees will be closely monitored and banned from traveling outside of Qatar for at least one year.
Was Bergdahl a deserter?
It's unclear whether Bergdahl had lagged behind when he was captured or if he was trying to desert the Army. Hagel has declined to say what he believes happened. Some fellow soldiers have taken to social media to call Bergdahl a deserter, including on the Facebook page "Bowe Bergdahl is NOT a hero."
Prior to his capture, Bergdahl had indicated his disillusionment with the Army in e-mails to his parents, according to a 2012 article in Rolling Stone. Bergdahl told his parents he was "ashamed to even be American." If it's determined Bergdahl deserted, he would face five years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
What does Bergdahl's release mean for U.S. relations with the Taliban?
Senior U.S. officials involved in the swap said Bergdahl's release could further reconciliation with the Taliban and achieve more security in Afghanistan. But Republican congressional leaders said the exchange would embolden terrorists to kidnap Americans. They also expressed concerns that the five detainees would return to the fight against the United States.
The Guantanamo detainees "are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Contributing: Associated Press
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