While many people jumped aboard the Bowe Bergdahl bandwagon, I was not one of them. His release today in exchange for five Taliban commanders who had been in custody at Gitmo underscores troubling questions that have persisted since his alleged abduction.
Longtime readers will recall questions raised here about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance. Here’s a flashback from my July 20, 2009 blog post:
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My prayers are with the family of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier seen on the Taliban abduction video released this weekend. The Jawa Report has the full clip.
All Americans should hope and pray for his release from jihadi custody.
There’s one question I have, though, about strange details initially reported on the case — details which have been deleted from later wire dispatches. Read:
The circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture weren’t clear.
On July 2, two U.S. officials told the AP the soldier had “just walked off” his base with three Afghans after his shift. He had no body armor or weapon and they said they had no explanation for why he left. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
On July 6, the Taliban claimed on their Web site that five days earlier “a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison” and was captured by mujahadeen.
In the video, Pfc. Bergdahl said he was lagging behind a patrol when he was captured.
Details of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military as it works to retrieve a missing or captured soldier without giving away any information to captors.
The question is: Which account is accurate?
The first account strongly suggests desertion, a la Wassef Ali Hassoun.
The second account might provide an explanation for why Pfc. Bergdahl had no armor or weapon on him when captured.
The third account is totally at odds with the other two.
Were the AP’s sources mistaken?
Did the AP botch the reporting?
Or is the disturbing first account the right one? Knowing, as the AP pointed out, that “[d]etails of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military,” wouldn’t the two U.S. officials have been extremely careful in passing on such sensitive details to the media on July 2?
And what about the “three Afghans” that Pfc. Bergdahl reportedly “just walked off” with after his shift?
Who are they?
Did they have security clearances at the base?
Did any or all of them work as translators?
Are they still missing?
Did one of them serve as the English-speaking questioner on the Taliban video?
Is anyone else puzzled by the completely conflicting stories? Will the Associated Press explain them?
What’s going on?
More strangeness via the Oregonian blog:
Kim Harrison Dellacorva, who moved from Idaho last fall and lives in the Pearl District of Northwest Portland…is listed on military documents as Bergdahl’s godmother. She ran the extracurricular performing arts school in Ketchum that Bergdahl attended.
A military casualty assistance officer knocked on Dellacorva’s door June 30, after Bergdahl was reporting missing from his company’s outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika province. At the time, nobody knew where he was or what happened to him. The military declined to release his name to the public, although his disappearance was an open secret in Hailey, the Idaho town near Ketchum where Bergdahl’s parents live in a remote canyon.
But over the weekend, his Taliban captors posted a 28-minute video that shows Bergdahl answering questions and eating.
Kim, Shane and Shane’s sister, Kayla Harrison, were relieved to see that Bergdahl is alive. But they say that parts of the video they have seen don’t sound like the Bowe they know.
“The only part that sounded like Bowe was when he said, ‘It’s very unnerving to be a prisoner,’” Kayla Harrison said.
A lot of the other stuff, about relatives and having a girlfriend back home he hoped to marry, sounded completely unnatural, the Harrisons say. Bergdahl doesn’t have a serious girlfriend, they say.
This is an indisputable truth:
“The Taliban are using the soldier for propaganda purposes,” said Navy Lt. Robert Carr, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Partial transcript of Bergdahl video:
“Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here wasting our time and our lives and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country.”
“Please bring us home. It is America and the American people that have that power.”
Update: Lt. Col. Ralph Peters had tough words about Pfc. Bergdahl’s reported desertion yesterday and has a warning for the media:
PETERS: On that video, he is collaborating with the enemy. Under duress or not, that’s really not relevant. He’s making accusations about the behavior of the military in Afghanistan that are unfounded, saying there are no rules. He’s lying about how he was captured, saying he lagged behind a patrol.
Julie, I’ll tell you, any 11 Bravo infantryman will tell you, that’s not how it works. In a war zone, any soldier is aware of where all his buddies are. If it’s a night patrol, you’re sure of where the guy in front of you and behind you is. So we know this private is a liar. We’re not sure if he’s a deserter. But the media needs to hit the pause button and NOT portray this guy as a hero…
Received from a USARPAC soldier this morning:
“Please don’t list my name– I am here in Afghanistan– I know the story and the accounts that he was drunk or that he was lagging behind on patrol are not true– this soldier planned this move for a long time. He walked off the post with a day’s supply of water and had written down before that he wanted to live in the mountains. He has violated the Code of Conduct in his 28 minute speech and he is an e[m]barrassment to everyone who has worn the uniform. He made it to two towns and was asking for water when the locals turned him over to the Taliban. That is really all I can say– since we are still looking for this soldier.”
And from P.J. Tobia:
I’ve been reporting for over a week (along with the AP and WaPo) that Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who’s gone missing in eastern Afghanistan, walked off the base on his own accord.
Now, somebody close to the people searching for Bergdahl has repeated this assertion saying that the soldier left “a note behind that said he was going to the mountains to find himself. He took a journal and 4 or 5 knives with him.” My source tells me that Bergdahl arrived at a village and asked if anybody spoke English. That’s when he was captured.
My source tells me that there is no doubt Bergdahl deserted, which in a time of war is punishable by a court martial at the least, or even execution.
Of course: White House tells Congress Chuck Hagel made the final call on the Bergdahl/Taliban leaders swap
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