A Reuters news article published on August 7, 2012 offers glimmer of hope for the release of SGT Bowe Bergdahl.
From the article:
The Obama administration, in a move aimed at reviving Afghan peace talks, has sweetened a proposed deal under which it would transfer Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for a U.S. soldier held by Taliban allies in Pakistan.
U.S. officials have hoped the prisoner exchange, proposed as a good-faith move in initial discussions between U.S. negotiators and Taliban officials, would open the door to peace talks between militants and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The revised proposal would send all five Taliban prisoners to Qatar first, said sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. Only then would the Taliban be required to release Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only U.S. prisoner of war.
Previously, U.S. officials had proposed dividing the Taliban prisoners into two groups, and requiring Bergdahl’s release as a good-faith gesture to come before the second group of prisoners would be moved out of Guantanamo.
Bergdahl, now 26 years old, disappeared from his base in southern Afghanistan in June 2009 and is believed to be being held by Taliban militants in northwestern Pakistan.
The White House and the Bergdahl family declined to comment on the revised proposal for a deal.
Bowe Supporters on Facebook were both excited and cautiously hopeful when they heard this news.
Also from the article (emphasis added):
U.S. officials stress that the transfer, if it occurs, will be done in accordance with U.S. law, which requires Congress to be notified before any detainees are moved from Guantanamo.
Now is the time for those supporting Sergeant Bergdahl to ramp up efforts to contact their Members of Congress to tell that it is time to Bring Bowe home. For more information about how to contact your elected officials, follow HERE.
The June 21, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone offers an article by written by Michael Hastings, whose “Runaway General” profile in 2010 led to the dismissal of U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is the most revealing to date about the circumstances before and after Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was taken captive by members of the Haqqani network. “America’s Last Prisoner of War“ includes details of the undisciplined state of the U.S. Army unit that Sergent Bergdahl assigned to, the political maneuvering occurring in Washington D.C. and how it is impacting his possible release, and excerpts of the last email that he sent to his parents before he was captured.
From the article:
The discipline problems that had plagued Bowe’s unit back home only got worse when immersed in the fog of war. From the start, everything seemed to go wrong. In April, Lt. Fancey was removed from his post for clashing with a superior officer. He was replaced by Sgt. 1st Class Larry Hein, who had never held such a command – a move that left the remote outpost with no officers. According to four soldiers in the battalion, the removal of Fancey was quickly followed by a collapse in unit morale and an almost complete breakdown of authority.
The unruly situation was captured by Sean Smith, a British documentary filmmaker with The Guardian who spent a month embedded with Bowe’s unit. His footage shows a bunch of soldiers who no longer give a shit: breaking even the most basic rules of combat, like wearing baseball caps on patrol instead of helmets. In footage from a raid on a family compound, an old Afghan woman screams at the unit, “Look at these cruel people!” One soldier bitches about what he sees as the cowardice of the Afghan villagers he is supposed to be protecting: “They say like, the Taliban comes down and aggravated their town and harasses them… Why don’t you kill those motherfuckers? All of you have AKs. If someone is going into my hometown, I know my town wouldn’t stand for that shit. I’d be like, ‘Fuck you, you’re dead.’” Another soldier laments, “These people just want to be left alone.” A third agrees: “They got dicked with by the Russians for 17 years, and now we’re here.”
During the middle of May, Bowe went out on one of his first major missions. He described it in a detailed e-mail to his family dated May 23rd, 2009. What started as an eight-hour mission, Bowe recounted, ended up taking five days.
While another unit was setting up a night ambush in the mountains, an MRAP – the $1.5 million armored vehicle designed to protect soldiers from the roadside bombs being used by the Taliban – got hit with an IED. Bowe’s platoon was deployed to escort a tow truck to get it down off the mountain. But on the way to escort the truck, an MRAP in Bowe’s own platoon was hit by an IED. The unit found itself stuck in the mountains for four days, guarding the wreckage while their commanders debated whether to fly in the parts needed to fix the vehicles. Some of the time, Bowe wrote his family, was spent near a village that “was not too friendly to Americans” because it had been attacked by the Taliban. “So the elders were telling us to leave,” he reported, “because the taliban was there, and we couldn’t leave because command finely decided that they would fly in the parts (one MRAP needing a new engine) and would rebuild the MRAPs up there.”
Once the MRAPs were finally fixed, the unit started to leave the mountains, only to be hit by yet another IED – the third of the mission – and to come under a blistering attack from rocket-propelled grenades. “It was at the point that the guys where beginning to climb into the trucks that the first RPG hit about 30m away from them,” Bowe recounted, “and then the RPKs and the AKs began to splatter bullets on us, and all around us, the gunners where only able to see a few of them, and so where firing blindly the rest of the time, up into the trees and rocks. The .50 went down on the first shot on the truck i was in, and i had to hand up my SAW for the gunner to use. I sat there and watched, there was nothing else I was allowed to do.”
No soldiers were killed in the ambush, but Bowe blamed the screw-up on his superiors: “Because command where too stupid to make up there minds of what to do,” he wrote, “we where left to sit out in the middle of no where with no sopport to come till late mourning the next day.” He concluded his e-mail with a nod to the absurdity of the situation: “The end of the 8 hour mission that took five days, and so here i am. But Afghanistan mountains are really beautiful!”
It wasn’t long, though, before his parents began to grow frustrated by how the government was treating them in the midst of the ordeal. The Army, they felt, was subtly pressuring them not to speak to the press, and they were required to sign a nondisclosure agreement with the National Security Agency in order to view classified and top-secret material. In addition, Bob believes the military began monitoring their phones in case the kidnappers called – standard procedure in a hostage situation, but one that also enabled the U.S. military to keep tabs on the family.
Things soon got worse. Ralph Peters, an action-thriller writer who serves as a “strategic analyst” for Fox News, took to the air to condemn Bowe as an “apparent deserter.” The Taliban, he declared, could save the United States on “legal bills” by executing him. Horrified by such comments, Bob and Jani told their military liaison that they didn’t want the Army to mount an operation to rescue Bowe, fearful that he’d be killed – either by accident, or even on purpose, by an aggrieved soldier or the U.S. military itself. There have certainly been soldiers who have joined the drumbeat of hatred against Bowe: A recent Facebook post from one soldier in his unit called for his execution. Worried that any further public attention might put Bowe at greater risk, his parents decided to remain silent, releasing a statement to their local newspaper asking the press to respect their privacy.
In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the Pentagon also scrambled to shut down any public discussion of Bowe. Members of Bowe’s brigade were required to sign nondisclosure agreements as part of their paperwork to leave Afghanistan. The agreement, according to Capt. Fancey, forbids them to discuss any “personnel recovery” efforts – an obvious reference to Bowe. According to administration sources, both the Pentagon and the White House also pressured major news outlets like The New York Times and the AP to steer clear of mentioning Bowe’s name to avoid putting him at further risk. (The White House was afraid hard-line elements could execute him to scuttle peace talks, officials involved in the press negotiations say.) Faced with the wall of official silence, Bob and Jani began to worry that the Pentagon wasn’t doing all that it could to get their son back. As Bowe’s sister, Sky, wrote in a private e-mail: “I am afraid our government here in D.C. would like nothing better but to sweep PFC Bergdahl under the rug and wash their hands.
Read the FULL ARTICLE at Rolling Stone online.
EARLIER ARTICLES AND VIDEOS
These articles and videos have been published over the last thirty days beginning with the video that broke three years of near silence by the Bergdahl family regarding Bowe’s capture and captivity.
VIDEO from the Daily:
ARTICLE “Idahoan’s Unlikely Journey to Life as a Taliban Prisoner” from The New York Times:
Last week his anguished family broke a yearlong silence and announced that their son had become the centerpiece in secret but stalled negotiations between the Obama administration and the Taliban over a proposed prisoner exchange. The deal, which would trade five Taliban prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay for Sergeant Bergdahl, is considered a crucial first step toward striking a broader political settlement with the Taliban to bring the decade-long war to an end.
Sergeant Bergdahl’s father, Robert Bergdahl, who said he went public to try to push the Obama administration to revive the talks, has in the meantime reached out to the insurgents. He is now in regular e-mail contact with a man he believes is a member of the Taliban with accurate knowledge of his son.
Read the FULL ARTICLE at The New York Times.
ARTICLE “Waiting for Bowe: America’s Last Captured Soldier” from TIME magazine:
Robert and Jani Bergdahl, parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in Hailey, Idaho, May 12, 2012. Bowe Bergdahl is America’s only known current prisoner of war.
Nearly three years ago, Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, a machine gunner with the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, disappeared from his outpost in eastern Afghanistan. A short time later, the military learned that Bowe had been captured by the Taliban.
For every parent who sends their son or daughter to war, the ultimate nightmare is seeing a uniformed officer walking up to the house to tell you your child is dead. For Bob and Jani Bergdahl, the nightmare has no end, as their son has been held by the Taliban for nearly three years.
Late last week, I had the honor of meeting with Bob.
Since his son’s capture, he’s become a student of the history, politics and religion that permeates Afghanistan and Pakistan. He taught himself Urdu and Pashto so he could read from news reports and chat rooms in the area, and so if it ever came to it, so he could talk with his son’s captors. Nearly two years after Bow’s capture, Bob made a video he posted on Youtube where he appealed directly to the Pakistani military for Bowe’s release.
Read the FULL ARTICLE at TIME online.
ARTICLE & SLIDESHOW” America’s Last Living POW: Christopher Morris Photographs a Family in Waiting” TIME magazine:
After their son was captured, the Bergdahls kept their silence. Intensely private, devout Presbyterians, they chose to work behind the scenes to try and bring their son home. But a week ago, an interview Bob had given was published in a local newspaper. It said that he was frustrated with the government for not doing enough to bring Bowe home. Bob decided to break his silence. “We do not want the American people to think we are dissatisfied with the way our government has proceeded,” Bob says. “The problem is this is extremely complex. It involves several different parties—state actors and non-state actors. This is going to be difficult to reconcile, which is why we believe diplomacy for the hostages—and Bowe’s not the only one, there are other hostages—negotiations, diplomacy are the window of opportunity here.
Read the FULL ARTICLE at TIME online.
VIDEO “Bowe Robert Bergdahl: The Last Prisoner of War” TIME magazine online. FOLLOW TO VIEW
In a rare interview just published by the Idaho Mountain Express, the Bergdahl family sent a message out to all who are working to support Bowe. Out of concerns for their son’s safety, and on advice of the military and United States government, the Bergdahls have spoken little publicly about their son during his nearly three years of captivity.
From the article By GREGORY FOLEY, Express Staff Writer:
Nearly three years after finding out their son Bowe was taken hostage by enemy forces while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, Hailey-area residents Bob and Jani Bergdahl are breaking a long silence, hopeful that renewed awareness about Bowe’s plight will lead to his release and return home to Idaho.
In an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express, the Bergdahls said they believe Bowe is alive and could be brought home through aggressive negotiations or, possibly, a prisoner exchange. They said they are now vocally supporting grassroots efforts to bring their son’s case into the spotlight, in part because of mounting frustration over the inability of the U.S. government to negotiate Bowe’s release.
“There is a dynamic here that has changed,” Bob Bergdahl said. “Everybody is frustrated with how slowly the process has evolved.”
Pursuant to that frustration, Mr. Bergdahl said he and his wife now want to publicly thank activists across the globe who have initiated petitions and awareness campaigns to recognize Bowe and plead for his safe return to the United States. And, Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl said, they are advocating that the Pentagon and the White House consider swapping one or more U.S. prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for their son.
“I’m pushing it hard,” Mr. Bergdahl said. “We started out by trying to encourage the Taliban to take care of our son. … Now, we’re worried that the government isn’t concerned enough to put him on the (negotiating) table.”
Mr. Bergdahl said he and his wife want to see a peaceful resolution to the standoff, preferably one that doesn’t put other American soldiers in harm’s way in order to secure Bowe’s freedom.
“We don’t want to see Americans killed,” he said.
Mrs. Bergdahl said the family has reasons to believe that Bowe is still in captivity in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
“We know he is doing as well as he can be,” she said.
Mr. Bergdahl said he believes a deal to swap Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo for Bowe would be a “win-win” for the United States—his son could be returned safely to Idaho and the government could foster goodwill with the Afghan people. The ongoing imprisonment of suspected war criminals at the Cuba compound and reports of mistreatment of prisoners there encourages anti-American sentiment and might be helping some organizations to recruit soldiers to fight against the United States, he said.
Earlier this year, talks between the Afghan Taliban and the United States in Qatar failed, as the Taliban leadership reportedly refused to accept the U.S. demand of a cease-fire before swapping prisoners. Sources in the Taliban reportedly said the group had set up an office in Qatar and wanted to negotiate for five top commanders held at Guantanamo since 2002.
Mr. Bergdahl said he and his wife have worried extensively that Bowe has been in danger of being harmed as a pawn of the ongoing war.
“Bowe’s been (living) under the drone program the entire time,” he said, referring to U.S. military initiatives to use unmanned drones to bomb enemy posts. “It scares the hell out of us.” READ MORE
In light of this new information, it is all the more urgent that all Bowe Supporters work to contact the following on Bowe’s behalf: their Members of Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the White House. We all need to step up our efforts to tell others Bowe’s story and we must ask others to contact those who represent them in government. Our elected officials need to know that Bowe’s supporters mean business and that “we’re doing everything that we can” is NOT an acceptable answer. Those who have the power to bring Bowe home clearly aren’t doing enough or Bowe would be home by now. And if they’re really doing everything they can, then they need to figure out how to do something more post haste. Time is of the essence; December 2014, an important goal date in the United States’ Afghanistan exit strategy, will be upon us in no time.
Find out HOW to contact your Members of Congress.
The following is taken from various news sources over the past week:
11 March 2012: Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN)
The five Taleban who have been mentioned for possible release (reporting on today’s visit can be seen here and here) are: Khairullah Khairkhwa, the former governor of Herat and one of the founding fathers of the Taleban movement, Fazl Mazlum, former head of the Army, Nurullah Nuri, former head of the northern zone, Abdul Haq Wasiq, former deputy head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and Abdul Nabi Omari, a minor figure and former judge who appears to be on the list because he has links to the Haqqanis who are holding the captured US Soldier Bowe Bergdahl, whose exchange may be part of any deal. READ MORE
13 March 2012: Foreign Policy
The pending deal to move senior Taliban figures from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar is part of a trade for the return of a Western prisoner, according to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
The Obama administration’s plan to move five top Taliban officials to live under house arrest in Qatar has been extensively reported but never openly discussed by administration officials. And until Feinstein confirmed it to The Cable, the fact that the crux of the deal is a swap for a Westerner had never been publicly disclosed.
“That’s the framework of the exchange. But it’s presented as a confidence-building measure,” Feinstein said. “We are giving up people who killed a lot of people, people who were head of major efforts of the Taliban.”
Feinstein said the deal involved the trade of one Westerner for the five Taliban leaders. She also confirmed the name of the Westerner in question, but The Cable has agreed to withhold that name at the request of U.S. officials out of concern for his safety.
Under the deal, the United States would reportedly place the Taliban officials under the responsibility of the Qatari government, where they would ostensibly remain under some degree of supervision and imprisonment. According to reports, the prisoners being considered for transfer include Mullah Khair Khowa, a former interior minister; Noorullah Noori, a former governor in northern Afghanistan; and former army commander Mullah Fazl Akhund. READ MORE
15 March 2012: Akron.com (The West Side Leader and South Side News Leader)
• During the communications from the public portion of the evening, resident Mike Hoofman asked Council to recognize U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is currently an Afghanistan conflict prisoner of war.
“I’m a member of Rolling Thunder, a veteran of the Marines and mostly a concerned citizen,” Hoofman said. “We have one prisoner of war in Afghanistan and his birthday is March 28. He’ll be 26. I’m asking the city to place a happy birthday announcement and indication to show support for him. We’ve made up yard signs and I’d like permission to install one at Williams Peace Park.”
“We’ll make sure a sign gets put up there,” said Mayor Mike Zita. SOURCE
16 March 2012: KUOW.org Northwest News
The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan may hinder the most likely avenue for bringing a captured Northwest soldier home safely. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, is the only known U.S. soldier in Taliban captivity.
Peace talks between the U.S. and a faction of the Taliban were already on unstable footing. Now the Taliban says it’s suspending contact with U.S. officials. READ MORE
16 March 2012: Idaho Mountain Express
Planned negotiations between U.S. and Taliban leaders aimed at a prisoner swap that could free captured soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl took an apparent step backward this week.
For several months, numerous media sources have reported that top Taliban leaders in Afghanistan planned to open a “political office” in Qatar, a wealthy Persian Gulf emirate, to begin negotiations with the United States. The Associated Press reported in August that the negotiations included plans for the possible swap of Bergdahl for Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
However, The Washington Post reported Thursday that Taliban leaders were “suspending preliminary peace talks with the United States because of Washington’s ‘alternating and ever-changing position,’ and accused U.S. officials of reneging on promises to take meaningful steps toward a prisoner swap.” READ MORE
Don’t Forget to Join the Day of Action and Prayer on 28 March 2012 in Honor of Bowe’s 26th Birthday. Invite your friends too! This is an “anywhere you are” event so it’s easy for everyone to participate in.