- POSTED: 13 Jun 2014 16:15
- UPDATED: 14 Jun 2014 01:44
The US soldier freed in a controversial swap with the Afghan Taliban arrived back in the United States on Friday, his latest step in a return to normalcy after five years in captivity.
WASHINGTON: The American soldier freed in a controversial swap with the Afghan Taliban returned to the United States on Friday and was due to soon reunite with his family after nearly five years in captivity.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl flew overnight from a military hospital in Germany to San Antonio, Texas, where he will undergo further medical treatment at Brooke Army Medical Centre.
The 28-year-old soldier, the only American in uniform to be held by insurgents in the Afghanistan war, will eventually face questions from investigators about the circumstances of his disappearance and whether he deserted his post.
But first, he will receive more medical attention and is due to see his family face-to-face for the first time since his capture.
The timing of the reunion remained unclear, and officials said the initial meeting might be brief, depending on the advice of psychologists.
Amid a media frenzy over his case, Bergdahl's parents, who live in Idaho, appealed for privacy.
"While the Bergdahls are overjoyed that their son has returned to the United States, Mr. and Mrs Bergdahl don't intend to make any travel plans public," the family said in a statement issued through an Idaho National Guard spokesman, Colonel Tim Marsano.
"They ask for continued privacy as they concentrate on their son's reintegration," Marsano said.
Bergdahl's disappearance from a base in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 fueled speculation that the soldier abandoned his post before he was captured and that he may face prosecution by military authorities.
The US Army said it would ensure Bergdahl "receives the necessary care, time and space" to complete his transition after the ordeal.
He was due to undergo more medical treatment and "debriefings" with a team of specialists, it said.
But it added that once the "reintegration" is complete, "the Army will continue its comprehensive review into the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity."
Bergdahl has been denounced by some commentators and retired soldiers who say he placed his fellow troops in danger by allegedly walking off the base alone.
His family has reportedly faced death threats and his hometown of Hailey, Idaho had to cancel a planned celebration for his release due to concerns about security.
"The city of Hailey respectfully requests that people do not pre-judge this young man," Fritz Haemmerle, the mayor of the small town, said in a statement on Monday.
Bergdahl was handed over to US special forces in Afghanistan on May 31 in return for five senior Taliban detainees who were sent to Qatar from the US-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The exchange has triggered outrage among some US lawmakers who have accused President Barack Obama of capitulating to "terrorists" and failing to fulfil his obligations to give Congress advance notice about transfers of Guantanamo detainees.
Bergdahl has yet to speak to the news media about his experience, but letters and other correspondence from him suggest he was in a troubled state of mind before his disappearance and that he distrusted his commanders.
"Leadership was lacking, if not non-existent," he wrote in a letter sent to his family during his time in captivity, obtained by The Daily Beast website.
The letter, one of two sent to Bergdahl's family via the International Committee of the Red Cross, is marked by numerous spelling errors.
"The conditions were bad and looked to be getting worse for the men that where actuly (were actually) the ones risking thier lives from attack," he wrote in a March 23, 2013 letter.
Bergdahl also appeared to appeal for understanding over his disappearance, though he does not explicitly state that he deserted.
It remained unclear to what degree his captors from the Haqqani network -- extremists allied with the Taliban -- were dictating what he should write to his family.
"If this letter makes it to the USA, tell those involved in the investigation that there are more sides to the cittuwation," he wrote.
"Please tell DC to wait for all evadince to come in."
Copies of the two letters were passed to the website by sources in contact with the Taliban, The Daily Beast said.
After he went missing in 2009, the military said he was "absent without leave."
Bergdahl had been discharged from the US Coast Guard in 2006, before he joined the army, for what authorities said was a failure "to adapt to military life."
Bergdahl's friends were dismayed and surprised when they learned he had signed up for the army in 2008 following his abbreviated stint in the Coast Guard, according to the Washington Post.