WASHINGTON, May 31 (Xinhua) -- President Barack Obama on Saturday vowed to bring U.S. prisoners of war home, as an American soldier was heading home after being detained by the Afghan Taliban for nearly five years.
"We also made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home," the president told reporters at the Rose Garden of the White House, flanked by Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's parents.
"Today, at least in this instance, it's a promise we've been able to keep," Obama said.
Earlier in the day, the president announced in a statement the release of Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in the Afghan war that has lasted almost 13 years.
The Taliban released the 28-year-old in exchange for Washington 's turning over of its five detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a deal brokered by Qatar.
Also on Saturday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military after being handed over by his captors in Afghanistan. "As of today, I informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar," he said in a statement.
Top congressional Republicans, while praising the release, criticized Obama for negotiating with the Taliban, with Republican senator John McCain describing the released Taliban detainees as " hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands."
In his Rose Garden remarks, Obama said, "The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security."
"We're committed to winding down the war in Afghanistan and closing Gitmo," he added, referring to the Guantanamo prison.
The president said on Tuesday that he planned to leave 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan after most U.S. and NATO combat troops leave the Asian country by the end of this year.
Bob, Bergdahl's father, thanked those who helped secure his son 's release, saying "The complicated nature of this recovery will never really be comprehended."
Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 from a base in eastern Afghanistan, and the Taliban later claimed responsibility for his capture.
CNN said at least 27 Americans are being held captive abroad including in Iran, Pakistan, Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.