The Taliban fighters who handed off Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to a Special Forces team during a prisoner exchange in eastern Afghanistan were reportedly bummed they didn’t stick around long enough to exchange pleasantries.
An interesting report by the New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg goes into detail about the now-viral Taliban propaganda video of the exchange, but one passage stuck out in particular.
But once on the ground, the Americans, to the dismay of the Taliban, proved uninterested in any pomp. They rushed through the encounter and did not stop to talk or exchange polite greetings, as is customary in Afghanistan, even during hostage releases. The narrator complained that they had managed to shake hands with only two of the Americans, and that one of them had hastily shoved his left hand forward, considered a particularly rude gesture in Afghanistan.
Indeed, the entire handoff is rather short. While the video released by the Taliban is more than 17 minutes long, the actual exchange of Bergdahl from Taliban to Army Special Forces custody only takes about one minute. After the helicopter lands, American soldiers (in civilian garb) get out as two Taliban fighters walk Bergdahl toward them.
As the video shows, one American soldier at least makes an attempt at a pleasant greeting often used in Afghanistan, by placing his hand over his heart (the gesture is often accompanied with saying “As-salamu alaykum,” or “Peace be upon you.”). Unfortunately, he used his left hand, which is a big no-no in that part of the world.
“We wanted to convey some messages to them via the interpreter, but they didn’t spend much time with us,” a Taliban fighter said on the video, according to the Times, speculating that perhaps the Americans were too frightened to linger. “They even didn’t let us shake hands with the soldier and say goodbye, and they behaved in a very simple way.”
Still, you can’t really blame the Americans for wanting to get out of there quick, especially with Taliban fighters standing on a hillside overlooking the helicopter armed with RPG’s.
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