By Rebecca Shabad - 06/05/14 11:50 AM EDT
A senior Taliban commander said the prisoner exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had encouraged the group to kidnap more American soldiers in the future.
“It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,” the commander told Time magazine.
“It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird,” the Taliban leader added.
Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years, was freed this weekend in a prisoner exchange that saw the U.S. release five Taliban commanders to Qatar.
The decision sparked outrage on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers said they had not been notified and questioned the precedent set by releasing terror suspects from Guantánamo for an American hostage.
Another senior Taliban commander affiliated with the Haqqani network, which held Bergdahl captive, told Time that the American soldier didn’t believe his captors when they announced his release.
In 2012, Bergdahl was handed over to a Taliban council in Afghanistan when negotiations to release him appeared close to fruition. But those talks failed, and he was sent back to Pakistan, the commander said.
“That’s why he didn’t trust us this time when he was told about his likely release,” the commander added.
The Taliban officer hailed the deal with the U.S.
“Our talks finally proved successful for the prisoners’ swap,” he said. “We returned our valued guest to his people and in return, they freed our five heroes held in Guantánamo Bay since 2002.”
The commander said the Taliban arranged for a local tailor to make a white tunic and trousers for Bergdahl, which is considered a gift and sign of respect.
“You know we are also human beings and have hearts in our bodies,” he said. “We are fighting a war against each other, in which [the Americans] kill us and we kill them. But we did whatever we could to make [Bergdahl] happy.”