"You know we are also human beings and have hearts in our bodies," the senior Taliban commander told Time. "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."
The Taliban said the tunic set Bergdahl wore during his release was custom made for him. In Afghanistan, that is a parting gift meant to signify respect and friendship.
"We wanted him to return home with good memories," said the commander who did not want to be identified. He added that Bergdahl had made friends among the Taliban and learned basic Pashto.
When the deal for the swap was finalized, detainees and members of the Taliban ate whole goats cooked in rice, a meal reserved for celebrations.
"I cannot explain how our people are happy and excited over this unbelievable achievement," said another Taliban leader speaking from the Kandahar area. "This is a historic moment for us. Today our enemy for the first time officially recognized our status."
He added that some members wanted monetary payment but they were silenced as the prisoners were considered of greater value. When asked if the exchange would encourage the organization to attempt to capture others, he said it absolutely will.
"Definitely," he said. "It's better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people. It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird."