On the bright side at least the Taliban now knows to be more careful about what they say over open airways, inside information about our search efforts and some of what we already know. Not to mention which signals we've been keying in on.
Documents detail search for captive soldier
By John Miller - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jul 29, 2010 14:19:38 EDT
BOISE, Idaho — In the minutes after Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was reported missing last June, his U.S. Army comrades in southern Afghanistan began searching bunkers, latrines, vehicles, even Afghan National Police posts in a nearby settlement.
About five hours later, search dogs were on the ground.
Meanwhile, radio operators were already intercepting messages indicating the worst: One of their own was in enemy hands.
These details are from leaked military documents about the war in Afghanistan that provide an unvarnished, eight-day window into the U.S. Army's hectic search for an Idaho soldier captured by the Taliban.
Bergdahl, a 24-year-old from Hailey in central Idaho, has been a captive since June 30, 2009.
Documents posted on the whistle-blower group WikiLeaks' website include transcripts of Afghan radio transmissions intercepted after Bergdahl went missing from his base in southern Afghanistan — as well as reports from U.S. soldiers about talks with village elders about a possible prisoner swap.
The documents show Afghan tribal leaders assured U.S. officials Bergdahl was unharmed.
"The elders were asked by the Taliban to (do) a trade between the U.S. and Taliban," a U.S. soldier said in a report dated July 2, 2009. "The Taliban terms are 15 of their Taliban brothers in U.S. jail and some money in exchange for Pvt. Bergdahl."
Bergdahl's Taliban captors have released at least two videotapes of him, including one on Christmas Day showing him healthy but speaking critically about the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan.
The latest documents indicate the Taliban almost immediately seized on Bergdahl's value as a propaganda tool.
According to a transcript of what appears to be a radio transmission intercepted July 1, 2009 — the day after Bergdahl's capture — people aware he was being held hostage discussed what to do with him.
In the translated transcript, one person says: "Look, they have all Americans ... helicopters, the planes are looking for him."
Another replies: "I think he is a big shot. (That's) why they are looking for him."
A third man says: "Can you guys make a video of him and announce it all over Afghanistan that we have one of the Americans?"
The second man responds again: "We already have a video of him."
Nearly three weeks later, a Taliban video of Bergdahl began circulating on the Internet. Media from across the nation then descended on Bergdahl's tiny hometown just south of the Idaho resort town Sun Valley, where his parents live in a modest home on a dirt road that leads into the mountains.
Col. Tim Marsano, Idaho National Guard spokesman, on Wednesday alerted Bergdahl's family to media reports about the leaked documents. But Marsano declined to comment on still-classified military information.
"Even though they are leaked, it doesn't change our responsibility to hold them as government secrets," he told the Associated Press.
Bergdahl's parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, have declined to speak to the media.
Reports of how Bergdahl landed in enemy hands are conflicting.
On July 2, 2009, two U.S. officials said the soldier "just walked off" his base with three Afghans. On July 6, the Taliban claimed they'd captured a "drunken American soldier." Bergdahl said in a video he was taken captive when he lagged behind on patrol.
The leaked information does little to resolve the matter.
According to the documents, five hours after Bergdahl missed a morning roll call, U.S. soldiers in the area picked up a radio transmission indicating "an American soldier is talking and looking for someone who speaks English."
The next day, another intercepted conversation appears to mock U.S. soldiers' efforts to find him. It claims an unarmed Bergdahl was captured during an attack on his post in Paktika province near the border with Pakistan in an area known to be a Taliban stronghold.
On July 4, another report came in: "Missing U.S. soldier was last seen in a village. ... A bag was covering his head, and he was wearing dark khaki apparel." It said the soldier was being transported in a black Toyota Corolla, which was being escorted by three to five motorcycles.
Major John Redfield, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., didn't immediately comment Wednesday on the documents' authenticity.