Senior U.S. defense officials have condemned the use of a captured
American soldier in a video released by the Taliban and say the U.S.
military is doing everything possible to find the missing man.
Secretary Robert Gates had only this to say today about the capture of 23-year-old U.S. Army Private Bowe Bergdahl and the video the Taliban
apparently forced him to make.
commanders are sparing no effort to find this young soldier. And I
also would say my personal reaction was one of disgust at the
exploitation of this young man," Gates said.
video, Private Bergdahl is seen sitting on the floor in a nondescript
room, wearing a traditional Afghan outfit and eating a meal.
"Well, I am scared - scared I won't be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner," he said.
Bergdahl appears to be answering questions from someone off-camera, who also seems to prompt him about what to say.
have a very, very good family that I love back home. [A second barely
audible voice intervenes.] [Bergdahl continues] And I miss them every
day that I'm gone I miss them. And I'm afraid that I might never see
them again, and that I'll never be able to tell them that I love them
again. I'll never be able to hug them," Bergdahl continued.
top U.S. military officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, says intelligence
officers are studying the video, but he declined to share their
conclusions during a news conference. The admiral just returned from a
visit to Afghanistan, where he met with some of the U.S. troops who are
searching for Private Bergdahl.
been with the forces, in fact, who are conducting the operations to
recover him, or to find him, they are extensive, vast. They are on it
24/7 and we're doing absolutely everything we can to get him back.
There's a tremendous effort ongoing to return this individual to us,
and it is full spectrum," Mullen said.
The U.S. military
has been searching for Private Bergdahl for about two weeks, since he
reportedly disappeared during a patrol. The Defense Department is not
confirming the exact circumstances of his disappearance somewhere in
eastern Afghanistan. He is the first U.S. soldier taken prisoner in
Bergdahl's identity only became public in the
last few days. But in the soldier's hometown in the western U.S. state
of Idaho, his family has known about his capture from the beginning.
On Monday, the local sheriff, J. Walt Femling, read a statement from the Bergdahl family.
have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and concern
towards Bowe and our family. As you know, the situation is extremely
difficult for everyone involved. We'd like to remind all of you that
our sole focus is seeing our beloved son Bowe safely home. Please
continue to keep Bowe in your thoughts and prayers, and we'd ask for
your continued respect of our need for privacy in this difficult
situation," said Femling.
Among other things, the U.S.
military has been distributing leaflets in the area where Bergdahl was
captured, urging residents to help find him, and threatening that if
his captors do not release him unharmed they will be hunted down.
Admiral Mullen says the leaflets reflect the concern and the
determination of the U.S. troops searching for their comrade.
admiral also spoke about the progress of the U.S. Marines' offensive in
southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban has fought back in some areas,
but not others.
"Two aspects of the
Taliban: One is, in some places, they're just not standing and
fighting. They're dispersing. But the other is that they've reached a
level of sophistication, in some cases, which is pretty high," Mullen said. And I
talked to a couple of Rangers who were in some pretty tough fights that
were surprised that the Taliban were as good and sophisticated as they
were," he continued.
Mullen also said he was impressed by
how quickly the new directive on avoiding civilian casualties has been
adopted by U.S. troops at all levels. He said in many cases they are
pursuing their missions in more difficult and complex ways to ensure
civilians are not injured, while also finding ways not to put
themselves at risk.