The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of U.S. Army Specialist Bowe Bergdahl from his unit in Afghanistan are still hazy, but recent videos released by Taliban militants suggest Bergdahl is still alive. This month, for the first time, Bergdahl's family called on the Taliban to release the soldier.
It has been almost two years since the Taliban captured Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan. Those holding him have released several videos of the U.S. soldier, now posted on YouTube, in which he says he’s being well-treated. “As you can see I am strong, physically fit," he said.
Another video shows Bergdahl exercising.
For most of his captivity, Bergdahl's family has kept silent. But earlier this month, his father, Robert Bergdahl, released a YouTube video, appealing for his son’s release. “Our son is being exploited. It is past time for Beau and the others to come home,” Bergdahl said.
The senior Bergdahl implored the Pakistani Army for help, thanked it for its battlefield sacrifices and then thanked his son’s captors.
“Strangely to some, we must also thank those who have cared for our son for almost two years. We know our son is a prisoner but at the same time a guest in your home," the father said.
Bowe Bergdahl went missing in June 2009 after he finished his guard shift at a combat outpost in southeastern Afghanistan. He later said, via video released by his captors, that he was separated from his unit when he lagged behind. His whereabouts are now unknown, but experts say he’s likely in the tribal lands of Pakistan, a kind of no-go zone, even for the Pakistani military.
In videos released early in his captivity, Bergdahl seemed to speak freely and with ease, criticizing U.S. policy in Afghanistan and calling for troops to leave that country. Experts note this sort of propaganda is the aim when capturing Americans.
“Our stupidity that has made us so blind that we seem to refuse to see the blunders and mistakes we make over and over again," Berghahl said in one of those videos.
But later videos, like one released in April, show a young man growing increasingly desperate.
“Every day I want to go home. The pain in my heart to see my family again doesn’t get any smaller. Release me, please. I am begging you. Bring me home,” he said.
Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute says the fact that Bergdahl appears to be alive and well, after so much time has passed, means those holding him still consider him an asset. They're demanding a select number of prisoners in exchange for the American soldier.
“They are not asking for the moon. They are not asking for the release of hundreds. They are not asking for the release, as I understand it, of any high profile types,” Weinbaum said.
News of Bowe Bergdahl and his father's appeal comes in the wake of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The question lingers … why can’t the U.S. military find Bergdahl? “We did finally get Osama bin Laden, but we had hundreds of people working on that over the course of these many years,” Weinbaum said.
Prisoners like Bergdahl can be shuffled from safe house to safe house for years, without anyone catching a glimpse of him.