Getting five Taliban commanders in exchange for U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl was a “spectacular achievement,” Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar said in a statement Friday.
In his message commemorating the festival of Eid at the end of of the holy month of Ramadan, Omar said, "The exchange of the detainees with America as a result of the efforts of the representatives of the political office of the Islamic Emirate is a spectacular achievement.”
The Islamic Emirate is the Taliban’s official name and also how the insurgent group refers to Afghanistan.
The continued presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, he added, would just prolong fighting. The Afghan government is set to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement after the presidential inauguration August 2. The agreement will allow thousands of U.S. troops to stay in the country until 2024.
"Presence of limited number of troops, under whatever title it may be, will mean continuation of occupation and the war," he said.
The Taliban-linked Haqqani network held Bergdahl captive for five years. In May, the Taliban released him to the U.S. in exchange for five commanders incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Following his release, Bergdahl spent two weeks at a German facility before being transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston. Bergdahl was released from the hospital and is currently on active duty.
The prisoners returned to the Taliban were Khairullah Khairkhwa, the most senior Guantanamo detainee; Mullah Norullah Noori, a senior Taliban commander; Mohammad Fazl, who led the main force fighting the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance; Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy chief of the Taliban intelligence service, and Mohammed Nabi, chief of security for the Taliban in Qalat, Afghanistan.