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May 27, 2017

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US troops in Afghanistan relieved over the release of Bowe Bergdahl

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan--U.S. troops in Afghanistan expressed relief Sunday over the release of their fellow soldier, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, even as they voiced misgivings that his freedom came in a swap for Taliban militants.

To ensure troops stayed on the lookout for Bergdahl, commanders had installed a screen saver on every American soldier's computer in Afghanistan that carried a photo of the captured sergeant as a reminder.

"I always wondered what happened to him," said Gloria Goomtam, 37, a U.S. Army specialist. "I'm so happy for him."

But Bergdahl, held by insurgents for nearly five years, was never spotted by American forces or rescued in a raid.

Instead, his freedom was brokered by Qatar in a swap that required the United States to transfer five Taliban detainees out of the Guantanamo prison.

The deal has sparked an outcry among some lawmakers that U.S. President Barack Obama sold out to Taliban "terrorists," but Goomtam said the agreement was worth it.

"To be honest, I'm still glad he's back, because we need him. It's better to have him back," she said.

"I did put myself in his situation and I thought, that could be me," she said. "You got to put yourself in his shoes."

Soldiers at the sprawling Bagram Airfield, the main hub for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, were surprised to learn when they woke on Sunday that Bergdahl had been treated at their base's hospital and was free of his captors.

Staff Sergeant Robert Mashburn, 28, heard the news from his wife in a Skype phone call.

"My wife told me that a soldier had been freed and I knew who it was,"said Mashburn, a member of the 101st Airborne.

That Bergdahl's release came at a price, with five senior Taliban figures allowed to leave the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, posed a difficult dilemma, he said.

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