The Afghan Taliban released a video yesterday of Private Bowe Bergdahl, 23, a soldier in the First Battalion of the U.S. 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fourth Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division who was captured on July 3 with three Afghan Army soldiers, undergoing questioning by an unseen man with excellent spoken English. In the video, Pvt. Bergdahl says that his unit was stationed in Paktika Province (southeastern Afghanistan), and that he was captured after "lagging behind" in a patrol. The video, as of yet, has not been posted to all of the major Salafi jihadi forums.
Who currently is holding him is debated, but some believe he is being held by the Taliban faction commanded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a powerful Afghan militia leader allied with al-Qa'ida "Central" who maintains a widespread base of support in Waziristan, where Pvt. Bergdahl may have been moved to.
In the text of the thread, in which which links to free online file-share web sites where the video has been loaded are included, part of the accompanying text (not a literal, word-for-word translation) identifies him as a prisoner of war:
"The captured American soldier is in fine and excellent health and has been treated with dignity, according to the regulations of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [Taliban] for prisoners of war..."
The "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" is the name adopted by the Taliban for the country in the 1990s, which they continue to use. An emirate in Arabic is akin to a principality or fiefdom in English.
Pvt. Bergdahl is shown well-clothed sitting on cushions, with a glass of tea, as he is being questioned. When asked to compare U.S. soldiers and Taliban fighters, he says that unlike U.S. soldiers, who carry the latest technology and advanced weaponry, the Taliban have only the clothes on their backs, an "AK-47," and extra ammunition, which makes them "stronger." The Taliban is claiming that it treats prisoners of war much more humanely than the U.S. military, which has arrested hundreds of Afghans and held them for long periods of time, and its Afghan allies, such as the brutal warlord 'Abdul Rashid Dostum, who stands accused of murdering hundreds of Taliban and other prisoners in 2001. News of these allegations was just reported by the U.S. and international press, which proves that the Taliban, like al-Qa'ida "Central" and its affiliates, closely monitors world news, which it then uses to design its media releases.
When asked if the U.S. government is purposefully hiding the true casualty figures, he says "yes," he thinks so because release of the "real" figures would lower support at home for the war in Afghanistan. He also says at one point during the questioning (around the 14:40-minute mark) that Americans are "misinformed and lied to" about current events in Afghanistan. It must be mentioned that Pvt. Bergdahl, as a Taliban prisoner, was/is likely under pressure, either external or internal, to provide answers favorable to his captors.
reported that, "A Department of Defense official told ABC News on Friday that if it hadn't been for the BBC reporting on the missing soldier on July 2, the military would have kept the capture quiet. The goal, he said, was to minimize the amount of information that might get back to his captors that might influence the military's search and recovery. "
After being captured, he was moved from Paktika Province to Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban and home to its leader, the elusive Mullah Muhammad 'Umar (Omar), according to the unseen questioner. ABC News is reporting that unidenfitied "sources" involved in the intensive search for Pvt. Bergdahl and the three Afghan soldiers have said that he may have been taken into South Waziristan in Pakistan's North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP), a hub for the Afghan Taliban and its Pakistan Pashtun allies. Taliban power grew by leaps and bounds under the leadership of Nek Muhammad who challenged and even assassinated Waziri Pashtun tribal leaders who opposed him and the Taliban. He was assassinated himself in June 2004 in a an airstrike claimed by the Pakistani military but believed to have been actually carried out by the U.S. military with Pakistani government agreement.
When asked who controlled the considerable area between the two provinces, Pvt. Bergdahl replies, "no one," confirming what everyone already knows: vast swaths of the country, essentially all those areas outside of U.S. or NATO military control, which is limited primarily to Kabul and a few other large military bases and urban centers, are outside of the control of the Afghan central government of President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. and NATO military forces.
Pvt. Bergdahl is specifically asked about President Obama's "new" strategy for the
"good" war in Afghanistan:
"Does Obama have any new strategy to win the war in Afghanistan?"
"No, he has nothing new other than to increase the troops in Afghanistan, which only increases the violence, the fighting, and the hatred of the people here, and of those American soldiers. I am one of the new soldiers that is sent over here, and it didn't take me very long to realize that the only thing it is accomplishing is more casualties of American soldiers. And I am not alone in my thoughts. My fellow soldiers, my friends that I fight with, they all agree when I say, 'This is a waste. We should not be here, and we know it. This is accomplishing nothing. We understand this. It's a waste of American lives and of American money. We know that we shouldn't be here, and we just want to go home. That is what we think."
"What's your message to your government, what should they do for your release?"
"My message to my government is to remove Americans from Afghanistan because that's not where we belong. I am an American, I'm not an Afghan, and I don't belong here. My country's first concern should be its people and its own country. We can't go around fixing other countries or trying to fix other countries when we haven't removed our own problems. When our country is failing, we can't help anyone else. I'm an American and my government should hold my concern above all else, as well as all the other Americans that are over here. Their concern should be for all of their lives."
The U.S. government has condemned the video as a violation of the international laws of war, which it is (using a prisoner of war-POW as a propaganda tool, which the video clearly does). Of course, the U.S. government under the previous president and continuing under Barack Obama has continued practices questioned and seen by other nations and many Americans as in violation of the same laws of war. It is also alleged that it turned a blind eye in the winter of 2001 when its Afghan Northern Alliance allies massacred hundreds of prisoners. The U.S. government also permitted filming and broadcasting of footage of captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Husayn in December 2004, which was then also criticized for being a violation of the same laws.
Nonetheless, violations do not justify other violations. The Taliban video is a clear violation of the international laws and norms of warfare. The Taliban has also massacred prisoners and civilians, such as hundreds of Hazara Afghans in 1998, during its campaigns in the mid-1990s to conquer all of Afghanistan. Toward the end of the video, the unseen questioner asks a rather disgusting question for propaganda effect concerning Pvt. Bergdahl's family. He lists members of his immediate family such as his parents and sister, and his "girlfriend that I'm hoping to marry," and then, beginning to choke up, says:
"I miss them every day that I'm gone. I miss them, and I'm afraid that I may never see them again and that I'll never be able to tell them that I love them again, that I'll never be able to hug them."
You stay classy, Taliban.
When asked about what message he has for Americans, he says:
"To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it's like to miss them, you have the power to make our government bring them home. 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 have that power."
Pvt. Bergdahl is asked about what he knows about Islam, to which he replies that he knows little. His interrogator/questioner asks whether he plans to learn more about Islam, to which he gives the admirable response, presuming it was his own, that according to his morals, he has been taught that one cannot judge something before really knowing something about it. He finishes by saying that yes, he does plan on learning more about Islam. One hopes that he discovers that Islam and Muslims are much broader than the simplistic and militant interpretation practiced by the Taliban and its allies, both foreign and domestic. Afghan Muslims were the ones who suffered under the Taliban for years before September 11, 2001. The Taliban and AQC do not represent the vast majority of Muslims.
The video closes with Pvt. Bergdahl eating a full meal, presumably provided by his captors.
View the video.