A field report made public through Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diaries disclosures provides a raw account of the first hours of the search for then-private Bowe Bergdahl, and includes initial Taliban and U.S. accounts of his behaviour the night he was captured.
“Geronimo reported a B Co missing soldier after he did not show up for the 0900 morning roll call at Mest OP, grid 42SVB 59236 47877 Yahya Khail District, Paktika. A full search was ordered,” the report begins, noting that “all remaining units had reported 100% accountability.” Forty minutes later, “Pathfinder and tracking dog team arrived at Mest OP in support,” and the search was on.
Searchers first verified that Bergdahl was in fact off-post: “ALL VEHICLES, LATRINES, BUNKERS, AND
ANP FACILITIES ARE TO BE SEARCHED. BOTH IN MEST AND SHARAN.” Aircraft were soon mobilized when it was clear what the searchers were up against: “ALSO HAVE REAPER, SHADOW, PREDATOR, GUARDRAIL, AWT, AND CAS ENROUTE TO ASSIST IN THE SEARCH.”
Soon, low-level voice intercept (LLVI) yielded a cryptic glimpse into Bergdahl’s actions the hours before his capture. An American soldier with a camera had reportedly been wandering around off-base, behaving suspiciously: GUARDRAIL REPORTS PICKED UP LLVI TRAFFIC AT GRID VB 6597 3366 THAT STATES…THAT AN AMERICAN SOLDIER IS TALKING AND IS LOOKING FOR SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH. INDICATES AMERICAN SOLDIER HAS CAMERA
On July 1st, a day after Bergdahl’s disappearance, LLVI picked up Taliban members talking about the Army private’s capture. Their account suggests that Bergdahl was unarmed, and captured in a somewhat vulnerable position:
“1- WE WERE ATTACKING THE POST HE WAS SITTING TAKING EXPLETIVE HE HAD NO GUN WITH HIM. HE WAS TAKING EXPLETIVE, HE HAS NOT CLEANED HIS BUTT YET. 2- WHAT [shame] FOR THEM.”
The Taliban militants even seemed surprised at the scope of the search:
” 2-YES LOOK THEY HAVE ALL AMERICANS, [
Afghan National Army] HELICOPTERS THE PLANES ARE LOOKING FOR HIM. 1- I THINK HE IS BIG SHOT THAT WHY THEY ARE LOOKING FOR HIM. 3-YOU GUYS MAKE A VIDEO OF HIM AND ANNOUNCE IT ALL OVER AFGHANISTAN THAT WE HAVE ONE OF THE AMERICANS. 1- WE ALREADY HAVE A VIDEO OF HIM.”
Two days after Bergdahl’s capture, the Taliban communicated their terms of release, and American forces were assured that the captured soldier was alive:
“THE ELDERS WERE ASKED BY THE TALIBAN TO ATRADE BETWEEN THE U.S. AND TALIBAN. THE TALIBAN [terms] ARE 15 OF THEIR TALIBANBROTHERS IN U.S. JAIL AND SOME MONEY IN EXCHANGE FOR PVT BERGDAHL. THE ELDERS ASSURED ME THAT PVT BERGDAHL IS ALIVE AND THAT HE IN NOT BEING HARMED.”
It would be another five years before the U.S. authorised a prisoner swap, exchanging five high-value Guantanamo Bay detainees for Bergdahl’s freedom.
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