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Bowe R. Bergdahl

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Title: Bowe R. Bergdahl  
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Subject: Missing in action, Taliban insurgency, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
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Bowe R. Bergdahl

Bowe Robert Bergdahl
Born (1986-03-28) March 28, 1986 (age 28)
Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 2008–present[1]
Rank Sergeant (promoted in absentia)
Unit 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
Battles/wars War in Afghanistan (POW)

Bowe Robert Bergdahl (born March 28, 1986) is a United States Army soldier who has been in the captivity of the Taliban-aligned Afghanistan Haqqani network since June 2009.[2][3][4]

Early life

Bergdahl was born on March 28, 1986 in Sun Valley, Idaho.[5]

Military status and disappearance

Bergdahl was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.[6] During his unit's normal deployment rotation to Afghanistan, he went missing on June 30, 2009, near the town of Yahya Khel in the Paktika Province, which is in the south-east of Afghanistan, right on the border to Pakistan. The area in which Bergdahl was captured is right next to Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

He is believed to be held by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban, probably somewhere in Pakistan.[7]

Since then, the Taliban have released five videos showing him in captivity. The Taliban originally demanded $1 million[8] and the release of 21 Afghan prisoners and Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for Bergdahl's release. They threatened to execute Bergdahl if Siddiqui was not released. Most of the Afghan prisoners are being held at Guantanamo Bay.[9][10] The Taliban later reduced its demand to five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl's release.[11]

Bergdahl was a Private First Class (E-3) when captured. He was promoted to Sergeant (E-5) on June 17, 2011.[12]


On July 18, 2009, the Taliban released a video showing the captured Bergdahl.[2] In the video, Bergdahl appeared downcast and frightened. A Department of Defense statement issued on July 19 confirmed that Bergdahl was declared "missing/whereabouts unknown" on July 1, and his status was changed to "missing/captured" on July 3.[13] In the 28-minute video his captors held up his dog tags to establish that the captured man was Bergdahl.[2] Bergdahl gave the date as July 14 and mentioned an attack that occurred that day.[14][15][16]

Accounts of his capture differ. The version offered by Bergdahl, in the video, is that he was captured when he fell behind on a patrol.[2] CNN, in its report, cites both Taliban and U.S. military sources, the former alleging he was ambushed after becoming drunk off base, and the latter denying that claim stating: "The Taliban are known for lying and what they are claiming (is) not true".[4] Other sources said Bergdahl walked off his base after his shift.[17] A Department of Defense spokesperson, Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker, said, "I'm glad to see he appears unharmed, but again, this is a Taliban propaganda video. They are exploiting the soldier in violation of international law."[2][3]

According to the Associated Press, General Nabi Mullakheil of the Afghan National Police said the capture occurred in Paktika Province.[2] Their other sources inform them that he was captured by a Taliban group led by Maulvi Sangin, who has moved him to Ghazni Province. The Guardian quoted sources who speculated about the increased difficulty of a rescue mission if Bergdahl had been smuggled across the nearby border into Pakistan.[3]

CNN described two Pashto-language leaflets the U.S. military was distributing in seeking Bergdahl.[4] One showed a smiling GI shaking hands with Afghan children, with a caption that called him a guest in Afghanistan. The other showed a door being broken down, and threatened that those holding Bergdahl would be hunted down.

In December 2009, five months after Bergdahl's disappearance, the media arm of the Afghan Taliban announced the release of a new video of "a U.S. soldier captured in Afghanistan", titled "One of Their People Testified". In the announcement the Taliban did not name the American, but the only U.S. soldier known to be in captivity is Bergdahl. U.S. military officials have been searching for Bergdahl, but it is not publicly known whether he is even being held in Afghanistan or in neighboring Pakistan, an area off-limits to U.S. forces based in Afghanistan.[18] On December 25, another video was released that shows Bergdahl in a combat uniform and helmet.[19][20] He described his place of birth, deployment to Afghanistan and subsequent capture. He then made several statements regarding his humane treatment by his captors, contrasting this to the abuses suffered by insurgents in prisons. He finished by saying that America should not be in Afghanistan and that its presence there is just another Vietnam. On April 7, 2010, the Taliban released a third video of Bergdahl, now with a full head of hair and a beard, pleading for the release of Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo and Bagram.[21][22] In November 2010, Bergdahl appeared briefly in a fourth video.[23] In May 2011, Bergdahl appeared briefly in a fifth video.[24]

In December 2011, it was reported that Bergdahl tried to escape three months earlier but was recaptured after three days.[25] In June 2013, Bergdahl's parents received a letter from him through the Red Cross.[26]

Threat of reprisal

On February 4, 2010, the Afghan Taliban demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist who was convicted by a U.S. court on charges of attempting to murder U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and threatened to execute Bergdahl if their demand was not met.[27][28] The Taliban claimed that members of Siddiqui's family had requested their assistance.

Reports of joining the Taliban

Fox News reported in August 2010 that a Taliban commander named Haji Nadeem said Bergdahl was helping to train the Taliban in bomb making and infantry tactics. The Pentagon dismissed the reports as Taliban propaganda.[29][30]

Release efforts

The missing serviceman's fate is tied up in U.S. efforts to broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a high-level, high-risk diplomatic initiative which appeared to be on the cusp of a breakthrough before the Taliban suspended preliminary talks in March 2012. For months, U.S. negotiators were seeking to arrange the transfer of five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay military prison to the Gulf state of Qatar. The transfer was intended as one of a series of confidence-building measures designed to open the door to political talks between the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government.[31] That move - at the center of U.S. strategy for ending the long, costly conflict in Afghanistan - was also supposed to lead directly to Bowe's release. The Taliban has consistently called for the United States to release those held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for freeing Western prisoners. But the Guantanamo transfer proposal, which would have required notification to Congress, ground to a halt when the Taliban rejected U.S. conditions designed to ensure transferred Taliban would not slip away and re-emerge as military leaders. The Obama administration has since become skeptical that any such peace deal with the Taliban will occur before the bulk of NATO forces leave in 2014.[32]

See also

  • Ahmed Kousay Altaie, United States Army – The last American serviceman missing in Iraq. His remains were recovered in February 2012.
  • Michael Scott Speicher – A United States Navy F/A-18 Hornet pilot shot down in the Gulf War whose status became the subject of uncertainty and headlines, and whose death was not confirmed until August 2, 2009, after positive identification of his remains after they were discovered near his crash site.


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