Claim: A U.S. soldier named Bowe Bergdahl was held prisoner after being captured by the Taliban in 2009.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, March 2013]
Facebook has a story circulating about a man held since 2009 as prisoner of war in Afghanistan. I could not find any thing on media about story on this and wanted to confirm. Soldiers name is Sgt Bowe
Bergdahl, captured since 6/30/09.
Origins: Bowe Robert Bergdahl is a U.S. Army soldier who, as a 23-year-old Private First Class with an infantry unit, went missing on 30 June 2009 near the village of Yahya Khel in Afghanistan, adjacent to that country's border with Pakistan. The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture remain something of a mystery, with the military press noting that "There
has been some speculation that he willingly walked away from his unit, raising the question of whether he could be charged with being absent without leave (AWOL) or desertion."
Bergdahl's disappearance, the Taliban released five different videos (the last in May 2011) showing him to be in their captivity, and in 2010 the Taliban demanded $1 million and the release of Aafia Siddiqui (a Pakistani scientist convicted of attempting to murder U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan) as well as 21 other Afghan prisoners held by the U.S. in exchange for Bergdahl (threatening to execute Bergdahl if their demands were not met).
Efforts by the Obama administration to secure the release of Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, broke down in early 2012. In June 2013, the Associated Press reported that the Taliban were again considering the proposal:
The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased his opposition to joining planned peace talks.
Bowe Bergdahl was promoted (in absentia) to the rank of sergeant on 17 June 2011. He was the sole American soldier held by Taliban insurgents until he was released in May 2014, after nearly five years in captivity, in exchange for five Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
The idea of releasing these Taliban prisoners has been controversial. U.S. negotiators hope they would join the peace process but fear they might simply return to the battlefield, and Karzai once scuttled a similar deal partly because he felt the Americans were usurping his authority.
The proposal to trade U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban detainees was made by senior Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail in response to a question during a phone interview with The Associated Press from the militants' newly opened political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf nation of Qatar.
The prisoner exchange is the first item on the Taliban's agenda before even starting peace talks with the U.S., said Suhail, a top Taliban figure who served as first secretary at the Afghan Embassy in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad before the Taliban government's ouster in 2001.
"First has to be the release of detainees," Suhail said when asked about Bergdahl. "Yes. It would be an exchange. Then step by step, we want to build bridges of confidence to go forward."
The Obama administration was noncommittal about the proposal, which it said it had expected the Taliban to make.
"We've been very clear on our feelings about Sgt. Bergdahl and the need for him to be released," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "We have not made a decision to ... transfer any Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, but we anticipate, as I've said, that the Taliban will all raise this issue."
A much-circulated quote from Judge Andrew Napolitano (who serves as a FOX News Senior Judicial Analyst) posits that President Obama provided material assistance to the Taliban by engaging in the prisoner exchange and thus committed a crime punishable by imprisonment of 10 years to life, but it is exceedingly unlikely that such criminal charges would be brought against the President of the United States, much less successfully prosecuted.
Last updated: 9 June 2014
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- Bossick, Karen. "Woodside Elementary Students Plead for Taliban to Release Bergdahl."
- [Twin Falls, ID] Times-News. 12 October 2010.
- Cloud, David S. and Megan Garvey. "Taliban Releases American Soldier After Five Years."
- Los Angeles Times. 31 May 2014.
- Gannon, Kathy and Kay Johnson. "Taliban Offer to Free US Soldier."
- Associated Press. 20 June 2013.
- Hastings, Michael. "America's Last Prisoner of War."
- Rolling Stone. 21 June 2012
- Rosenberg, Matthew and Rod Nordland. "U.S. Abandoning Hopes for Taliban Peace Deal."
- The New York Times. 1 October 2012.