Monday, July 20, 2009

The Curious Case Of An American Prisoner...

I didn't feel it was proper to comment on this story until the military felt it was proper to release more info, but some curious details have come out regarding the American soldier taken prisoner by the Taliban.

Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho has surfaced in a Taliban video ( which I will not link to). His head is shaven, he's starting to grow a beard and seems fairly low spirited. In the video, Bergdahl names the date July 14, which is probably correct because he repeats Taliban propaganda about the supposed shooting down of a Ukrainian helicopter on that date.

He mentioned his desire to 'explore Islam' and was prompted by his captors to give a message to the American people:

"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," he said.

There are a number of questions arising from different stories about about how he was captured:

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.

As Ralph Peters points out, the idea of lagging behind on patrol is unlikely:

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…

Okay, Colonel Peters gets a bit hardline in this vid, true. But the idea of lagging behind on patrol in a combat zone is pretty improbable. If it was true, the officer or NCO in charge would likely be subjected to an official reprimand or other disciplinary action. As for PFC. Bergdahl 'lying' I'll reserve judgement.Along with his repetition of Taliban propaganda and his assertion about investigating Islam, he might simply be trying to save his neck - literally.

Nor do I think he consciously tried to desert. Afghanistan isn't really the place for a feranghi to be wandering around alone unless he has a real desire to shorten his life expectancy.

The actual story might be hinted by the report of him walking off the base with some Afghans.No telling who they were, but if this is true they were likely interpreters or base workers who spoke some English, and they may have promised Bergdahl something - sex or drugs or both seem to be the most likely lures.

If he went with them willingly, they were people he knew and trusted. They likely sold him to the Taliban en route or more likely, after they had given him what they promised him and he was relaxing - which could also account for the Taliban account of him being intoxicated when they got their hands on him.

I normally agree with a lot of what Colonel Peters has to say, but in this case I hope he gets back safe and sound even if he did desert. No one, American or Afghan or otherwise should be left to the tender mercies of the Taliban.

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