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On the Disappearance and Reacquisition of Bowe Bergdahl

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On the Disappearance and Reacquisition of Bowe Bergdahl

Jai Singh

Abstract

The recent return to US custody of Bowe Bergdahl, following his June 30, 2009 disappearance from Observation Post Mest Malak, located in the vicinity of Yaya Khel, Paktika province, Afghanistan, has generated a substantial amount of debate and controversy across the relevant contextual spectrum.  The focus of the subject work is the evaluation of one particular facet of the contextual spectrum; namely the establishment of the timeline of events and actors involved during the first few days inclusive of and following June 30, 2009.  The information sources utilized in this evaluation consisted of the publically available WikiLeaks Afghan War Logs and various media reports.  Based upon the information available, while not excluding other scenarios for which information is yet not available, it is concluded that Pfc. Bergdahl, during the early morning hours of June 30, 2009, left Observation Post Mest Malak rather than being kidnapped from the same.  Coercion, as a motivator, however, could not be excluded secondary to the large gaps present in the information record.  These gaps include, but are not limited to, the identities and organizational affiliations of the individuals, if any, in whose company Pfc. Bergdahl was in at the time of his departure and the temporal sequence of individuals with whom Pfc. Bergdahl was in proximate contact with during the period of time from his departure to the first report of his capture on July 1, 2009.  It is also concluded that the intoxication narrative, provided by individuals associated with the discretely crystalized and ideologically linked Afghan insurgency, cannot be excluded and reference a specific point in the timeline during which Pfc. Bergdahl was neither in US custody nor observation.  Finally, it is concluded that the organizational affiliation of the individuals that first captured Pfc. Bergdahl remains unknown, but what is known is that the Haqqani network was intimately involved in the earliest stages.

Introduction

The series of events initiating with the disappearance of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl[1] on or about June 30, 2009 and culminating with his return to US custody almost five years later, on May 31, 2014, have generated substantial and substantive controversy.   This controversy has included, but is not limited to, the topical areas of the details surrounding Pfc. Bergdahl’s disappearance, the motivational basis on the part of Pfc. Bergdahl, if any, in regards to his disappearance and the response of the Obama Administration in seeking and obtaining his return to US custody.  Fluidity exists in regards to not only extant and future developments[2] but also in regards to the availability and nature of information regarding the previous sequence of events.  The uncertainty engendered by this context is further complicated by limited primary source data[3] and the corresponding necessity for reliance on secondary source data, which is inherently subject to a series of interposed perceptual prisms and sense making frameworks[4].  Uncertainty, however, does not preclude analysis.  Rather, it requires a careful consideration of the available evidence and is subject to the predicate that the analysis, when based upon sources beyond the primary, is as much of an analysis, implicitly stated or otherwise, on the reporting, as it is on the information contained therein. 

It is wise to remember that neither consensus nor the fallacy of the false appeal to authority necessarily equate to objectivistic reality.  The last applies equally to US government sources[5],  media sources[6] and to sources deriving from groups opposed to US foreign policy objectives[7].  In regards to the subject context, there already exist contentions of information shaping by the US government, as it relates to curtailing a certain type of primary source information.  CBS, citing a Fox News interview with retired Army Specialist Josh Fuller, presented the following quote[8].

“We had all known that he had deserted his post and there was never anything about him getting captured or a POW until a little while later when it came down from the chain-of-command that we needed to keep quiet about it, not say anything and that we’re going with the narrative that he’s captured.”

The use of the term ‘narrative’ is of particular interest with the primary lexical definition of ‘a story or account of events, experiences or the like, whether true or fictitious,’ holding apt.  Justifications for information shaping, generally speaking, are irrelevant as to whether or not such information shaping occurred.  If such information shaping did occur, it was, based upon the nature and extent of information available, of marginal success.  The extent of available information, for consideration, is sufficient, in the view of the subject author, to warrant a multi-part study.  The implications of the manner and mechanisms by which Sgt. Bergdahl returned to US custody, in regards to US foreign policy and national security objectives, are reserved for the second paper while the third focuses on the myriad of issues surrounding motivation, if any, on the part of Pfc. Bergdahl, in regards to his disappearance.  Instead, the focus of the subject study is to analyze the event sequence within the first week, inclusive, of the June 30, 2009 date of disappearance.  This time period is particularly crucial, not only in regards to its own merits, but also in regards to establishing a foundation for the subsequent papers in this study.  The specific research questions at issue here are:

  1. Based upon extant available information, what is the potential timeline of events during the first few days of Pfc. Bergdahl’s disappearance, starting on June 30, 2009?
  1. From the organizational affiliation perspective, which group or what groups of sub-national actors were involved during the first seven days of Pfc. Bergdahl’s disappearance on June 30, 2009?

The data sources for consideration in the subject work consist of  media reports, commentary on media reporting and the WikiLeaks released documentation[9].  The totality of the scope of the information considered herein, hence, is within the public record.

Timeline of Events

On June 30, 2009, in the early morning hours, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, then of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division[10], disappeared from Observation Post Mest Malak[11], located within the vicinity of Yaya Khel, Paktika province, Afghanistan.  The first media reports appeared on July 2, 2009 and a 28 minute video, showing Pfc. Bergdahl, attributed to the Afghan Taliban, appeared on July 18, 2009[12]

Afghan War Logs (2009-07-01 to 2009-07-02)

The most comprehensive source of data, however, stems from the topically relevant pages of the 91,731 document set comprising the Afghan War Logs, which were obtained by Pfc. Bradley Manning and released by WikiLeaks and its media partners, starting on July 25, 2010[13].  The incident in question is classified as a criminal event (kidnapping) with a date of occurrence of June 30, 2009 and a time of occurrence[14] of 04:04 GMT (08:34 local time).  The geocoded event location in the summary header was at a latitude of 32.96847916 and longitude of 68.56478174.  The event timeline initiates on June 30, 2009 at 04:30 GMT (09:00 local time) with Blackfoot Tactical Operations Center reporting a missing soldier.  At 05:05 GMT (09:35 local time) the order was given to search all vehicles, latrines, bunkers and Afghan National Police facilities located at Observation Post Mest and Forward Operating Base Sharan.  At 05:20 GMT (9:50 local time), Forward Operating Base Geronimo received notification from Forward Operating Base Geronimo that BR# BBB5187 was missing.  At 05:35 GMT (10:05 local time), Forward Operating Base Geronimo initiated duty station whereabouts unknown (DUSTWUN) for Observation Post Mest[15].  This was commensurate with the initiation of procedures for seeking full accounting of personnel at a number of facilities.  With the completion of the latter at 06:45 GMT (11:15 local time), an update was noted that an embedded training team and a provincial reconstruction team were to initiate movement to Observation Post Mest in order to set up blocking positions.  Also noted was the availability of a number of aerial assets for use in the search.

The next significant event in the timeline consisted of the intercept of low level voice traffic, by a US Guardrail aerial asset[16], at 10:12 GMT (14:42 local time) of the following:

“UIM indicates that an American soldier is talking and is looking for someone who speaks English.  Indicates American soldier has camera.”

At 13:09 GMT (17:39 local time), intelligence was received that confirmed the ‘capture’ of a US soldier.  At 15:43 GMT (20:13 local time), a radio transmission, indicating that the ‘Taliban’ had ‘captured’ three civilians and one US soldier, was intercepted.  At 16:56 GMT (21:26 local time) intelligence indicated that the ‘Taliban’ was planning on moving the US person to Gardez.  A number of search operations were carried out throughout the remainder of the day.

On July 1, 2009, at 02:34 GMT (07:04 local time), low level voice intercept revealed the following conversation between two individuals[17]:

“1 – I swear that I have not heard anything yet.  What happened?  Is that true that they ‘captured’ an American guy?

  2 – Yes they did.  He is alive.  There is nowhere he can go (LOL).

  1 – Is he still alive?

2 – Yes, he is alive.  But I don’t have the whole story.  Don’t know if they were fighting.  All I know if they were fighting.  All I know that they capture him alive and they are with him right now.”

Another low level voice intercept at 02:37 GMT (07:07 local time), attributed to an unidentified male, indicated, “Cut the head off.”  Yet another low level voice intercept, this time at Baki Khel, at 04:33 GMT (09:03 local time) suggested that he was within two kilometers and to be on the lookout for white colored vehicles.  Another low level voice intercept at 06:10 GMT (10:40 local time) , between three individuals, resulted in the following transcription:

“1 – We are ready for them.

2 – All the numbers are mess it.  We are waiting for them.

1 – LOL, they know where he is but they keep going to wrong area.

2 – Ok.  Set up the work for them.

1 – Yes, we have a lot of IED on the road.

2 – God willing, we will do it.

1 – We were attacking the post.  He was sitting taking (expletive).  He had no gun with him.  He was taking (expletive).  He has not cleaned his butt yet.

  2 – What sheam (sic) for them.

  1 – I don’t think he w…

  2 – Yes – look, they have all Americans, ANA, helicopters, the planes are looking for him.

  1 – I think he is big shot that why they are looking for him.

  3 – Can you guys make a video of him and announce it all over Afghanistan that we have one of the Americans?

  1 – We already have a video of him.

 

At 09:13 GMT (13:43 local time) on July 1, 2009, one of the units involved in the search noted that they had received intelligence that the missing US soldier was due east of their current position[18].  At 10:13 GMT (14:43 local time), the Afghan National Directorate of Security reported that they were in possession of intelligence that indicated that the missing US soldier was being held at VB66491717[19].  At 18:20 GMT (22:50 local time) Blackfoot Tactical Operations Center reported that the Afghan National Police Commander at Observation Post Mest received a call from ‘Taliban’ stating that they wanted to trade 15 ‘Taliban’ for the American and would call back in ten minutes.  No reporting of the subsequent call was noted.

On July 2, 2009, at 04:47 GMT (09:17 local time), a key leader engagement, involving elders of Mest and commanders of the Afghan National Police, was noted as being active[20].   At 07:57 GMT (12:27 local time), the following entry, naming Pfc. Bergdahl by name for the first time, was noted:

“Geronimo 3 reports have just finished with the KLE (key leader engagement) with 2 x elders from Mest and the Mest ANP (Afghan National Police) Commander.  The elders were asked by the ‘Taliban’ to a trade between the US and ‘Taliban.’  The ‘Taliban’ terms are 15 of their ‘Taliban’ brothers in US jail and some money in exchange for Pvt. Bergdahl.  The elders assured me that Pvt. Bergdahl is alive and that he is not being harmed.  The elders are going to have another meeting with themselves to discuss helping us this afternoon.  The Mest ANP Commander is also willing to help in every way he can; even to the extent of requesting assets/money from Dawlat Khan to aid the Mest elders to have resources (car, fuel, arm (sic) to defend themselves) facilitating meeting with the ‘Taliban.’  The elders also assure that they will do everything they can to take possession of Pvt. Bergdahl.  They said that they will appeal to the ‘Taliban’ by saying that they are white bearded men as elders.  During our meeting, they wanted me to talk to Pvt. Bergdahl via ICOM to ensure that he is doing okay.  Tried to get COMMS with no luck.”

Media Reports and Commentary

Knowledge of Pfc. Bergdahl’s disappearance apparently first came to light to Western journalistic circles on the same day (July 2, 2009) when information was released by US officials, anonymous in the reporting, to the Associated Press.  The WikiLeaks incident entry makes no mention of how or why Pfc. Bergdahl came to be missing from Observation Post Mest Malak.  Initial media reporting of this incident, while being varied in regards to the accounting and information contained, did broach the issue of the manner by which Pfc. Bergdahl disappeared.

A July 2, 2009 CNN reporting[21] included the following:

“A US soldier has been captured by militants in Afghanistan, the US military and the Taliban said Thursday…  The US soldier was kidnapped along with three Afghan soldiers.” 

A contemporaneous reporting from the BBC noted the following[22]:

“A US soldier has been captured by militants in eastern Afghanistan, the US military has said…  The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner says the circumstances of this capture are strange… rather that he wandered off out of his base with the three Afghans, our correspondent adds.” 

Yet another contemporaneous source[23] noted the following:

“Insurgents have captured an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan after he walked off post with his three Afghan counterparts, officials said Thursday.  Spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said the soldier disappeared Tuesday…  There are indications that the soldier who was captured was ‘disaffected’ and that he left the base to meet up with several Afghan nationals who were members of the security forces that he had been working with to train, one US defense official told FOX News…  The soldier was noticed missing during a routine check of the unit on Tuesday and was first listed as ‘duty status whereabouts unknown,’ a US defense official said on condition of anonymity.  It wasn’t until Thursday that officials said publically that he was missing and described him as ‘believed captured…’  Initial reports indicated that the soldier was off duty at the time he disappeared, having just completed a shift, the official said on condition of anonymity because details are still sketchy…  Two US defense sources said the soldier ‘just walked off’ post with three Afghan counterparts after he finished working.  They said they have no explanation for why he left the base.”

The Washington Post,[24] on July 3, 2009, reported that:

“A US soldier discovered missing yesterday from a small outpost in eastern Afghanistan is believed to have been captured by Taliban militants when he walked away from his base, military officials said.  A US official in Afghanistan said the soldier’s absence was discovered when he did not show up for morning formation… ‘We have no reason to believe someone came to the facility and kidnapped him.  We believe he left the facility and got into trouble,’ said one senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation..  the US official said the Afghans who reportedly were seized do not appear to have been soldiers.”

In a July 19, 2009 Associated Press report[25], this incident was reported as:

“… the US military said an American soldier had disappeared after walking off his base in eastern Afghanistan with three Afghan counterparts and was believed to have been taken prisoner.” 

A second Associated Press retelling[26], on July 20, 2009,  consisted of:

 “… two US officials told the AP, the soldier had ‘just walked off’ his base with three Afghans after his shift.  The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.” 

In a recent Associated Press timeline[27], the July 2, 2009, recounting is one of the following:

“Two US officials tell the Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Bergdahl had ‘just walked off’ his base with three Afghans after his shift.” 

Erstwhile conservative political commentator, Michelle Malkin, in a July 20, 2009 blog posting[28], makes two interesting observations.  The first is in regards to the initial wire dispatches[29].

“On July 2, two US officials told the AP the soldier had ‘just walked off’ his base with three Afghans after his shift.  He had no body armor or weapon and they had no explanation for why he left.  The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.”

The second comes from a quote attributed to a US soldier serving in Afghanistan, in which the following statement was included:

“He walked off the post with a day’s supply of water and had written down before that he wanted to live in the mountains…” 

Yet another reporting[30], with a stated anonymous source, in the same timeframe, noted that:

“Now, somebody close to the people searching for Bergdahl has repeated this assertion that the soldier left ‘a note behind that said he was going to the mountains to find himself.  He took a journal and 4 or 5 knives with him’.” 

Michael Hastings, in his June 7, 2012, Rolling Stone article[31], describes the following as it relates to the event sequence immediately antecedent to Bergdahl’s disappearance:

“In the early-morning hours of June 30th, according to soldiers in the unit, Bowe approached his team leader not long after he got off guard duty and asked his superior a simple question: If I were to leave the base, would it cause a problem if I took my sensitive equipment?  Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.  Bowe returned to his barracks, a roughly built bunker of plywood and sandbags.  He gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary.  Then he slipped off the outpost.”

Another report[32], citing an account provided by a “former senior military officer brief on the investigation into the private’s disappearance” makes no mention of the conversation with a “team leader” but does indicate that Bergdahl’s body armor and weapons remained at the outpost while “a soft backpack, water, knives, a notebook and writing materials” did not.

An earlier report[33], citing an unnamed senior US military official, indicated that Bergdahl’s disappearance was concomitant with having “no apparent means of defending himself.”

A more recent report[34], following Bergdahl’s return to US custody, from a member of Bergdahl’s battalion, includes the following:

“The next morning, Bergdahl failed to show for the morning roll call.  The soldiers in 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company discovered his rifle, helmet, body armor and web gear in a neat stack.  He has, however, taken his compass.  His fellow soldiers later mentioned his stated desire to walk from Afghanistan to India.”

One final source in regards to the public record merits further note.  The US Army apparently conducted an investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance in 2009 and yet, now in 2014, the resulting work product remains classified[35].  The classified nature of the report, however, has not prevented the reporting of information purportedly contained in the document.  In a recent New York Times report[36], the document is described as being 35 pages in length and with a rough completion date of two months post-incident.  The portions of this reporting, salient to the subject section, are quoted as:

“…concludes that he most likely walked away of his own free will from outpost in the dark of night…  It also confirms that he left behind his body armor and weapon – an unwieldy SAW machine gun – taking with him water, knives and a compass.”

Evaluating the Evidence

In considering the media reporting and commentary, compared between sources and compared with the WikiLeaks Afghan War Logs entry, one finds a certain degree of consistency as well as nuanced differences.  The initial reporting from the BBC, Fox News, the Washington Post, the July 19, 2009 AP report and the subsequent AP timeline description of the July 2, 2009 illumination of Pfc. Bergdahl’s disappearance, while utilizing slightly different terminology (i.e. wandered off, just walked off, walked away, walked off), present a similar description of the manner by which Pfc. Bergdahl disappeared from Observation Post Mest Malak.  The Washington Post report also notes a statement from an anonymous US government source that indicated that there was no positive rationale to support the theory that Pfc. Bergdahl had been kidnapped from “the facility” (i.e. Observation Post Mest Malak).  If the reporting regarding the contents of the classified US Army report is accurate, then the conclusion drawn in the same goes a step further in removing coercion, as per free will, as the most likely basis for Pfc. Bergdahl’s disappearance.  While the issue of motivation, imputed or otherwise, is reserved for a later paper, the current evidence points to Pfc. Bergdahl having left Observation Post Mest Malak during the early morning hours of June 30, 2009. 

This is in contrast to a competing hypothesis, one of many potential hypothesis that can be generated, for which there exists an evidentiary basis.   In the July 18, 2009 released video, bearing the iconographic seal of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (i.e. the Afghan Taliban or the Quetta Shura Taliban), an individual self-identified as Pfc. Bergdahl (along with the display of his military identification tags) and later identified by the US Department of Defense[37], made the following statement:

“I was lagging behind a patrol.  I was lagging behind a patrol when I was captured.”

This competing hypothesis is mutually exclusive to the first hypothesis to the extent that the reports of Pfc. Bergdahl having been observed at Observation Post Mest Malak in close temporal proximity to his disappearance are accurate.  There is no corroborating information for this hypothesis from the Afghan War Logs.  This hypothesis has also been subject to dispute[38].

When reported, the nature of the Afghan nationals in the company of Pfc. Bergdahl has varied.  The initial Guardrail aerial low level voice intercept (14:42 local time on June 30, 2009) only makes note of an American soldier, with a camera, talking and looking for someone who speaks English.  The 09:35 local time order for the personnel accounting search, inclusive of Afghan National Police facilities, did not result in a reporting of any Afghan nationals missing.  The 20:13 local time transmission of the confirmation of the ‘capture’ of Pfc. Bergdahl (described as a US soldier rather than by name) also noted the ‘capture’ of three civilians.  In considering this information one should first consider the following caveats: the absence of reporting of Afghan nationals in the company of Pfc. Bergdahl, as per the initial low level voice intercept is not evidence of absence; the failure of finding personnel missing from ANP facilities does not specify if the personnel considered were inclusive of Afghan nationals that would have been normatively present at the facilities in question; it seems to be an oddity that Pfc. Bergdahl, as per the initial low level voice intercept, would be asking for individuals that speak English, if he was in the company of Afghan nationals from Observation Post Mest Malak (implying that he had some means of communicating with such individuals a priori and that such individuals would have some ability for communicating with the individuals encountered from whom the observations derived as per the intercept).  Based on this information, one can neither include nor exclude the situation in which Pfc. Bergdahl was in the company of Afghan nationals at the time of his departure from Observation Post Mest Malak.  A twist to the third caveat would be one of leaving the Observation Post in the company of Afghan nationals and then not being in their company at the time that the observations were made that underlie the intercept.  The ‘capture’ of three civilians and Pfc. Bergdahl is insufficient in regards to determining the identities of the civilians, if the civilians were Afghan nationals, what relationship, if any, they had with Pfc. Bergdahl and if the individuals were actually civilians.  The final caution is that if Pfc. Bergdahl left in the company of other individuals, the time invariance of such company cannot be presumed[39].

The use of the term civilians, as per this record, makes an interesting contrast with the media reporting.    The initial CNN report indicates that a US soldier was kidnapped along with three Afghan soldiers.  The initial Fox News report indicated that a US soldier left the Observation Post to meet up with several Afghan nationals who were members of the security forces that he had been working to train.  Also cited is the variant that he walked off post with three Afghan counterparts (one may impute that this means members of the security forces).  The latter was also noted in the initial AP reporting, and the July 19, 2009 AP reporting.  The initial BBC report indicates that a US soldier wandered off with the three Afghan nationals (with whom he was captured).  The July 20, 2009 AP reporting and the recent timeline both indicate that US officials stated that he had walked off the base with three Afghan nationals.  The Washington Post report from July 3, 2009 did not indicate a stand-alone statement from US officials regarding this issue.  Instead, an AFP report was cited in which a commander of a sub-national organization stated that a US soldier was captured with three Afghan “guards” followed by a statement from a US official that indicated that the Afghans who were reportedly captured did not appear to be soldiers.  It is unknown as to how much of this media source data derives from the same or similar underlying source or sources, with the presentation of information predicated upon anonymity.  The variants that involve Pfc. Bergdahl having left the base in the company of others is not one that has positive support from the Afghan War Logs source (i.e. no positive proof is provided).  The identities, organizational affiliations and relationships with Pfc. Bergdahl, in regards to any individuals that he may have left with, may have left to meet and/or was ‘captured’ with remain indeterminate based on the extant evidence.

Items Taken, Items Left Behind

Another important facet in the evaluation of this matter consists of determining the nature of items that Pfc. Bergdahl left behind at Observation Post Mest Malak and those that were either definitively taken or presumed to have been taken.  The information from the WikiLeaks Afghan War Logs provides two specific pieces of information.  The first, from the June 30, 2009 14:42 local time voice intercept, is that he had a camera with him.  The only mention in the media reports considered for the subject work, of a camera, as being an item taken by Pfc. Bergdahl, is the Rolling Stone piece by Michael Hastings, which in turn cites the Afghan War Logs.  The second comes from the July 1, 2009 10:40 local time voice intercept.  One of the individuals, as per the transcription, notes that Pfc. Bergdahl, at the time of his ‘capture’ had no gun with him.  The media sources considered, either by exclusion or by explicit statement, support the proposition that Pfc. Bergdahl left behind his service firearms, which in turn would be one method of being ‘captured’ without a gun.  Other service items left behind, differentially noted based on source, consisted of his body armor, web gear, night vision equipment and helmet.  The conversation noted by Michael Hastings, between Pfc. Bergdahl and his “team leader” is particularly interesting in this regard, but requires further substantiation.  Variously detailed, again, the items either taken or presumably taken by Pfc. Bergdahl included the aforementioned camera, a compass, a variable number of knives, a journal/diary/notebook, writing implements, a backpack and a short duration ration of water.  The hypothesis of a coercive element, servicing as the principal motivation for Pfc. Bergdahl’s departure,  in the context of this information, is detailed in a subsequent study. 

Pfc. Bergdahl’s ‘Capture’ and ‘Captors

The term ‘capture’ has thus far been used in emphasized typeface secondary to the imputation that certain observers may draw from the term rather than precluding such imputation for a more stringent definition.  For the sake of simplicity, rather than presumption, this typeface is dropped for the subject section.  The elapsed time between when Pfc. Bergdahl was first reported missing to the time when he was reported as captured was a scant eleven hours and thirteen minutes.  The same voice intercept indicated that he had been captured by the ‘Taliban.’  Excluding, for the moment, the issue of the organizational affiliation of Bergdahl’s initial captors, we consider the 07:04 and 10:40 local time voice intercepts of July 1, 2009.  With the first, there appears to be a certain degree of confusion between the two participants regarding the manner of Pfc. Bergdahl’s capture.  Specifically, the second participant provides a diametrically opposing perspective on not knowing and then knowing that ‘they’ were fighting.  The second intercept is contextually interesting in three regards.  In the first, the first participant notes that, ‘We were attacking the post.’  What post this might have been remains unknown.  In the second, the same participant states that, ‘He was sitting taking (expletive)… He was taking (expletive).  He had not cleaned his butt yet.’  This is clearly a reference to the act of defecation without having the opportunity to clean oneself after the event.  Finally, the same participant notes that they already had made a video of Pfc. Bergdahl[40].

Returning to the organizational affiliation issue, the term ‘Taliban,’ in the author’s experience, is oft used generically to denote any number of distinct organizational entities that share an ideological basis predicated upon religion and commonality of desired goal(s).  The provinces of Khost, Paktika and Paktia, collectively referred to as Loya Paktia, have represented since the anti-Soviet jihad, and continue to represent, a significant  operational region, on the Afghan side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, for what has become to be known as the Haqqani network[41].  It is unknown if the initial captors were organizationally affiliated with the Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani network or another group.  The same statement holds for the June 30, 2009 21:26 local time voice intercept that indicated that the ‘Taliban’ were planning on moving Pfc. Bergdahl to Gardez.  Both the July 1, 2009 22:50 local time intelligence report and the July 2, 2009 09:17 local time key leader engagement, refer to the ‘Taliban’ and the offer of exchanging Pfc. Bergdahl for first 15 ‘Taliban’ and then for 15 ‘Taliban brothers in US jail and some money.’ The degree of comportment with the media reporting, especially when such reporting involved statements attributed to opposition sources, is varied.  On July 2, 2009, a telephone call received by Peshawar, Pakistan based journalist Samil Yousafzai was described in the following manner[42]:

“On 2 July an Afghan journalist based in Peshawar, Sami Yousafzai, said he received a call from a Taliban commander offering to negotiate a prisoner exchange.”

Again, it is unclear if the use of the term ‘Taliban’ refers to the Quetta Shura Taliban or if it represents the generic variant.  The idea of a prisoner exchange and the timing, in the very least, appear to be consistent with the information from the Afghan War Logs entry.  It is of interest to compare this with the initial reporting as per the AP[43]:

“Zabiullah Mujaheed, a spokesman for the Taliban, could not confirm that the soldier was with any of their forces.  A myriad of insurgent groups operate in eastern Afghanistan, and the Taliban is only one of them.  The most important insurgent group operating in that area is known as Haqqani network and is led by Siraj Haqqani, whom the US has accused of masterminding beheadings and suicide bombings.”

Clearly, one is not arguing that such a lack of confirmation proves anything beyond confirmation not being provided.  The recently published AP timeline, however, cites July 6, 2009 as the date for the following[44]:

“The Taliban claims that five days earlier a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison and was captured by mujahadeen.” 

Responsibility, however, was noted in the initial news reports from July 2, 2009.  The oddity arising from the admixture of the Quetta Shura Taliban with the Haqqani network can clearly be seen in the reporting from CNN[45].

“The Taliban claimed responsibility for the abduction…  The US soldier visited a military post in the Yousaf Khel district and got drunk, Sangeen said.  He was ambushed while returning to his car and taken to a safe place, Sangeen said.”

The prefacing honorifics of Maulvi, Mawlawi, Maulana or Mullah are of the Sunni Islamic religious variant.  Sangeen refers to Sangeen Zadran, a high-ranking member of the Haqqani network and not the Quetta Shura Taliban[46].  Sangeen Zadran was subsequently reported killed in a September 5, 2013 drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan[47].  The BBC’s report, from the same day, exhibits the utilization of ‘Taliban’ in the general sense, with the Haqqani network reduced to a mere faction[48].

“A hardline Taliban faction called Haqqani said it had the soldier, but this has not been confirmed by the main Taliban spokesman…  AFP news agency said a commander of Haqqani, named only as Bahram, said the soldier was captured along with three Afghans in the Yosuf Khail district of Paktika province.  The commander said the soldier has been taken to a ‘safe place.’  Another Haqqani commander, Mullah Sangeen, told Reuters the soldier would be held until Taliban fighters detained by the US were released.’

Another media report from July 2, 2009 makes the curious statement that Pfc. Bergdahl was ‘handed over to the Haqqani network’ without the specification of the organizational affiliation of individuals that were initially holding him and then makes the claim that Sangeen Zadran claimed that he was a ‘Taliban’ spokesman[49].

“The soldier was handed over to the Haqqani network, a group with ties to the Taliban, and the same group that captured New York Times correspondent David Rhode.  US officials believe the soldier is still being held in Afghanistan – and has not crossed into Pakistan’s Waziristan province.  Maulvi Sangin, who claims to speak for the Taliban, in the province, said that the US soldier was seized when he and others were on their way to the Yousafkhel security checkpost, and took them to a secret location, according to an Afghan new Web site obtained by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute.  Sangin claimed the abducted soldiers were drunk when captured by the Taliban…  Zabiullah Mujaheed, a spokesman for the Taliban, could not confirm that the soldier was with any of their forces.  A myriad of insurgent groups operate in eastern Afghanistan, and the Taliban is only one of them."

The July 3, 2009 Washington Post report, with a press date one day after the July 2, 2009 key leader engagement, but with reference to an AFP story from July 2, 2009, noted the following[50]:

“A member of the Taliban linked to insurgent leader Sirajuddin Haqqani in Pakistan said that the soldier is in custody of insurgents from the Haqqani network who are operating on the Afghan side of the border.  The Taliban fighter, interviewed by telephone, said the kidnapping was carried out by Maulvi Sangeen, an Afghan commander linked to Haqqani.  Agence France-Presse quoted a Haqqani commander as saying his militia had captured the soldier in the Yousef Khail district of Paktika province, along the border with Pakistan.  ‘Our leaders have not decided on the fate of this soldier,’ the AFP quoted the Haqqani commander, identified only as Bahram, as saying.  ‘They will decide on his fate, and soon we will present videotapes of the coalition soldier and our demands to media’.”

Transliteration aside, it is not a surprise, given the underlying source, that the capture of Pfc. Bergdahl was reported to have occurred in the Yusuf Khel district.  The claim attributed to the anonymous ‘Taliban’ fighter of Sangeen Zadran having carried out the ‘kidnapping’ of Pfc. Bergdahl is of further interest.  If the term ‘carried out’ is taken literally, then a subsequent discussion of transfer from the Quetta Shura Taliban (or any other non-Haqqani group) to the Haqqani network becomes a quizzical issue secondary to Sangeen Zadran being a Haqqani network operative.  A number of potential explanations exist.  These include, but are not limited to, the sourced ‘Taliban’ fighter being mistaken or mistakenly identified in regards to group affiliation, the term ‘carried out’ being reference to a more limited role and the involvement of multiple organizations with differential and time-varying roles.  It makes for an interesting consideration if the organizational affiliation of those that captured Pfc. Bergdahl was indeed the Haqqani network.  While it would not prevent the case in which Quetta Shura Taliban members were involved in the prisoner exchange demands noted as per the Afghan War Logs, it would make the Haqqani network the ultimate arbiter regarding releasing Pfc. Bergdahl, presuming that they maintained custody of him after his capture, during the first few days inclusive of and after June 30, 2009.  The timing of the issue of the potential prisoner exchange is also of interest.  The key leader engagement, the last report of any negotiations during this early period, was noted as of 12:27 local time on July 2, 2009.  The call received by Samil Yousafzai, the BBC’s citation of the Reuters attributed statement to Sangeen Zadran of Pfc. Bergdahl being held until ‘Taliban fighters detained by the US were released’ all occurred on July 2, 2009.  The Washington Post report, published the following day, cites an AFP report in which another Haqqani commander, Bahram, made the statement that Pfc. Bergdahl’s fate had not been decided.  This could mean a status change from a negotiated exchange of prisoners to undecided.  However, the same commander and AFP were cited in the July 2, 2009 BBC reporting but without indication of Pfc. Bergdahl’s fate being undecided.  It is unclear if these represent two different statements given on successive days or if they represent differential reporting of the same statement.  What is clear is that the Haqqani network was involved in the process at a very close point in time to the capture of Pfc. Bergdahl.

Another point of interest is the intoxication narrative.  Intoxication in the form of drunkenness was claimed by Sangeen Zadran as per the AP timeline, the CNN reporting and the Fox News reporting.  The CNN reporting notes that Sangeen Zadran stated that Pfc. Bergdahl was ambushed while returning to his car after visiting a military post in the Yusuf Khel district.  In the Fox News reporting this changed to being seized while on the way to the Yusuf Khel security checkpoint.  There appears to be no indication that Pfc. Bergdahl was in possession of a motor vehicle.  Whether or not a motor vehicle was obtained by him after his departure from Observation Post Mest Malak or was in the possession of those with whom he was captured, assuming that such individuals were present, remains unknown.  The statements attributed to Sangeen Zadran do not include nor exclude the captured while defecating scenario referenced in the Afghan War Logs.  While the response from US officials was the immediate dismissal of the idea that Pfc. Bergdahl was intoxicated, such a dismissal is purely presumptive as the US had no direct control or observation of Pfc. Bergdahl during the time from which he disappeared through the time he was captured.  The final twist comes from a recent Washington Post report, citing interviews with villagers from Yusuf Khel[51]:

“Locals remember Bergdahl walking through the village in a haze.  They later told Afghan investigators that they had warned the American that he was heading into a dangerous area… ‘We think he probably was high after smoking hashish,’ Manikhel (listed as the district’s intelligence chief) said.”

This report makes no mention of Pfc. Bergdahl being in the company of others nor does it make any mention of a motor vehicle being in his possession.  It is important to note that, with respect to the timeline, this event falls between his disappearance from Observation Post Mest Malak and his capture.  Hence, it does not represent a different hypothesis.  It is doubtful that Pfc. Bergdahl was subject to any manner of scientific testing in order to establish intoxication.  It remains unclear if the actions of Pfc. Bergdahl, at the time of his observation by the villagers, and at the time of his capture, were due to intoxication or if the contention of intoxication is merely a simple explanatory mechanism for his actions.

The last sighting of Pfc. Bergdahl, in regards to the period under consideration, was on July 4, 2009 at 12:48 GMT (17:18 local time)[52].

“Spot report missing US soldier was last seen in a village at grid location VB611818.  A bag was covering his head and he was wearing dark khaki apparel.  He was being transported in a black Toyota Corolla which in addition was being escorted by 3-5 motorcycles.”

Discussion and Conclusions

In considering the sources available, there appears to be as much information that is known, in regards to that which has been propounded, as there is unknown and which may never be objectively known, as it relates to the event sequence surrounding the June 30, 2009 disappearance of Pfc. Bergdahl from Observation Post Mest Malak  and the ensuing days.  Theories regarding the evidence sequence are not excludable simply due to an absence of extant evidence and the actuality may differ substantively from the framework of rationality within which one interprets the available information.  With this being noted, one may consider the available information and endeavor to draw conclusions regarding the event timeline.  It would appear that Pfc. Bergdahl disappeared from Observation Post Mest Malak at some time during the early morning hours of June 30, 2009.  As of this time, it would appear that his disappearance was not orchestrated as part and parcel of a covert or overt operation nor does it appear as if Pfc. Bergdahl was forcibly taken from Observation Post Mest Malak.  Whether or not Pfc. Bergdahl was coerced into leaving or made the volitional choice to leave remains unknown and will be further explored in a subsequent study dealing with potential motivation.

The issue of whom Pfc. Bergdahl left the observation post with also remains an issue that is somewhat difficult to pin down.  The Afghan War logs make no mention of any missing Afghan National security force members but the accounting of the same is not a given.  In the background information considered, it was generally found that reporting of Pfc. Bergdahl leaving by himself involved omission of the reporting of others rather than exclusion.  When reported, however, the number of other individuals involved has generally been consistent as has been their description as Afghan nationals.  There is some divergence as to whether or not the individuals were members of the Afghan national security forces or if they were civilians (i.e. when the reporting is one of Afghans without qualifier).  If Pfc. Bergdahl left in the company of others, the timeline and details of the co-location of these individuals with Pfc. Bergdahl between the time of departure and the time of his capture remains unknown.  The three Afghans, whose capture was reported, oft in the same statement, with that of Pfc. Bergdahl have been described as soldiers and as civilians.  The recent Washington Post reporting fails to mention Pfc. Bergdahl as being in the company of any other individuals when encountered by the villagers of Yusuf Khel and the Afghan War logs notation of a low level voice intercept of an American soldier looking for someone who speaks English could readily be used to support the assertion that, at the time of those events, Bergdahl was not in the company of others from the observation post.  Additional information is clearly required.

With the motivation issue reserved for later, the items taken or presumably taken and the items left by Pfc. Bergdahl, in and of themselves, do not directly address the timeline issue.  They certainly do tend to point to either a short duration departure or towards the curious notion, in the sense-making framework of the subject author, of a longer duration departure with the hope of living off the land and the human terrain.  The leaving behind of high technology US weaponry, however, seems curious in regards to the desertion to the ‘Taliban’ theory as such weaponry, in and of itself, represent a tactical asset. 

While the intoxication narrative was summarily dismissed by US officials, accepting such a summary dismissal is quizzical given that Pfc. Bergdahl was missing and thereby not in US custody and hence, US officials would have no reliable knowledge upon which to make such a judgment.  The aforementioned Washington Post article, referencing the observations of the villagers of Yusuf Khel, could certainly be viewed as being supportive of an intoxication narrative.  It would certainly be a proverbial twist if Pfc. Bergdahl left the observation post, either in the company of others or with the intention of meeting others, in order to obtain an intoxicant and then was subsequently captured.

The final issue and the most important issue in regards to the prelude to the national security ramifications, involves the organizational affiliation of those that first captured Pfc. Bergdahl.  The Afghan War logs provide support to the theory that Pfc. Bergdahl was taken by surprise, although the extent and nature of the knowledge possessed by those whose commentary was transcribed is currently unverifiable.  The organizational affiliation of those that first captured Pfc. Bergdahl remains unclear. A portion of this confusion derives from the almost careless nature of the reporting as manifested by a lack of differentiation between the linked and yet distinct organizational entities operating in Afghanistan.  Similarly, the report of capture by the ‘Taliban’ in the Afghan War logs does not equate to capture by members of the actual Quetta Shura Taliban.  Whether or not Pfc. Bergdahl was first captured by low-level militants, not of Haqqani network affiliation, remains unknown.  What is known, however, is that the Haqqani network was quickly involved in timeline.  This should not come as a surprise given that Loya Paktia represents a primary operational area for this group. Finally, additional clarity is needed in regards to the timing of the noted prisoner swap deal(s), why it or they failed to manifest and the potential transfer of Pfc. Bergdahl into Haqqani network custody.  The timing of the key leader engagement of July 2, 2009, the telephone call received by Sami Yousafzai on the same date and the same date reporting of the statements from Sangeen Zadran in which a prisoner release was deemed a prerequisite for Pfc. Bergdahl’s release, became a fate undecided by the following day.  The Afghan War logs provide no follow-up documentation in regards to any further key leader engagement contacts.  Clearly, something changed in regards to moving from a discussion of a prisoner release to fate undecided.  Yet again, additional information is required.

The organizational affiliations of the individuals involved on the opposing side of the US in regards to Pfc. Bergdahl, important herein, are also important in regards to the broader issues of US government interests as it relates to both the broader context surrounding the event and the context deriving from the event.  These issues will be explored in the following paper.

End Notes

[1]   Pfc. Bergdahl was promoted, in absentia, to the rank of Sergeant, on June 17, 2001.  References to rank are made in accordance with the rank assigned at each temporal reporting.

[2]   Of particular interest are the implications on Overseas Contingency Operations, which represents the preferred terminology for the current US Administration’s functionally equivalent War on Terror of the  previous US Administration.  See: : Singh, J and A Singh (2012) The War on Terror – Over?  Small Wars Journal.  Retrieved from: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-war-on-terror-over

[3]   This statement is one of specificity for the subject author, rather than a generality for all observers.

[4]   The manifestations are in multiplicity ranging from epistemological and framing bias to denial and deception.  For the first, see: Recasens, M, C Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil and D Jurafsky (2013) Linguistic models for analyzing and detecting biased language.  In: Proceedings of the ACL 2013. 

[5]   A suggestion that the US government, specifically regarding matters within the purview of the military and national security, provides only honest and factually correct information, strains the bounds of credulity.  Information operations, denial and deception and secretiveness represent general norms when considering state level entities.  While an example does not make for a paradigm, one may readily consider the nature and scope of the US domestic surveillance apparatus.  Exposure was not by means of honest and accurate information transmission from agents of state, but rather by means of the undeniable outcome of the clandestine activities of Edward Snowden. 

[6]   Reporting is subject to a litany of processes that may impact the information conveyed.  These include, but are not limited to,  the transmission of manipulated information from primary sources, exclusion of salient information, framing and epistemological bias and outright disinformation (e.g. Reuters use of altered digital imagery from photographer Adnan Hajj regarding the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict).

[7]   US foreign policy may be stated and/or in praxis and the groups opposed may be armed or otherwise.  Information regarding such sources, especially foreign-based or armed, comes by means of an interposed reporting source.  Digital methods of information communication, such as websites, are potentially vulnerable to cyber warfare operations.  As an example, see: Nakashima E (2013-06-11) US disrupts al Qaeda’s online magazine.  Washington Post.  Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/officials-describe-how-us-disrupts-al-qaedas-online-magazine/2013/06/11/6a9196c6-ca07-11e2-9245-773c0123c027_story.html

[8]   Soldier: we were told to ‘keep quiet’ about Bergdahl leaving Afghan base (2014-06-04) CBS.  Retrieved from: http://washington.cbslocal.com/2014/06/04/soldier-we-were-told-to-keep-quiet-about-bergdahl-leaving-afghan-base/Also: Bates, D (2014-06-02) Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon mates say officers made them sign non-disclosure agreement after ‘he deserted his post in Afghanistan.’  Daily Mail.  Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2646932/Bowe-Bergdahls-platoon-mates-say-officers-sign-non-disclosure-agreement-deserted-post-Afghanistan.html

[9]   (Criminal Event) Kidnapping RPT B CO 1-501 PIR: 0 INJ/DAM.  Reference ID: AFG20090630n1790.  Retrieved from: http://wikileaks.org/afg/event/2009/06/AFG20090630n1790.html#help_2

[10] Miller J (2009-7-19) Bowe Bergdahl: soldier captured in Afghanistan identified as 23-year-old Idahoan.  Huffingtonpost.com.  Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/19/bowe-bergdahl-soldier-cap_n_239930.html

[11] Almukhtar S, A Tse and T Wallace (2014-06-03) Where Bergdahl disappeared.  New York Times.  Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/03/world/asia/where-bergdahl-disappeared.html

[12] The video can be found at the following: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=2ec_1248004999.  The video is overlayed/stamped with the iconographic symbol of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is more clearly shown on the heading banner at the Voice of Jihad’s website.  See: http://shahamat-english.com/

[13] It is important to note that the subject author can, by no means, provide verification regarding the authenticity of the documents or substantiate that observations contained therein are representative of objectivistic reality.  Instead, one may state that the salient documents are one of many relevant sources of information and that the granularity of data found therein exceeds that of the other source data.

[14] The conversion from GMT to local time for Afghanistan is GMT + 04:30.

[15] The updates within the body of the Afghan War Logs include geocoordinate information based upon the military grid reference system (MGRS).  The grid zone designator (GZD), is generally left off in the entries, but is readily known to be 42S for the region in question.  The provided MGRS coordinate, of VB592478, prefixed to 42SVB592478, was converted to latitude and longitude coordinates using the Earth Point online utility and mapped to 32.9677833, 068.5634035.

[16] The MGRS geocoordinate of 42SVB65973366 converts to 32.8404680, 068.6363689, which is approximately 15.7 kilometers southeast of Observation Post Mest.

[17] This maps to coordinate location 32.9575212, 068.3661979, which is approximately 18.6 kilometers northwest of Observation Post Mest.

[18] The MGRS reference of VB71695264, properly prefixed with the grid zone designator 42S, maps to the coordinates of 33.0118371, 068.6969065 in regards to latitude and longitude.

[19] This maps to 32.6917353, 068.6425203, which is approximately 31.5 kilometers southeast of Observation Post Mest.

[20] The entry uses the term “conducting” rather than “initiating” or a similar term to denote the temporal start of the engagement.

[21] Taliban capture US soldier (2009-07-02) CNN.  Retrieved from: http://www.allword-news.co.uk/2009/07/02/taliban-capture-us-soldier/

[22] Afghan rebels capture US soldier (2009-07-02) BBC.  Retrieved from: http://www.allword-news.co.uk/2009/07/02/afghan-rebels-capture-us-soldier/

[23] Intense search for American soldier captured in Afghanistan (2009-07-02) FoxNews.com.  Retrieved from: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/07/02/intense-search-for-american-soldier-captured-in-afghanistan/

[24] Tyson, S (2009-07-03) US soldier may be a captive of Taliban forces.  Washington Post.  Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/02/AR2009070200741.html

[25] Miller, J (2009-07-19) Fort Richardson soldier held in Afghanistan.  Associated Press.  Retrieved from: http://www.adn.com/2009/07/19/869478/fort-richardson-soldier-held-in.html.  An unverified copy of the original AP report can be found here: Abrashi F (2009-07-02) American soldier feared captured in Afghanistan.  Associated Press.  Retrieved from: http://www.afghanistannewscenter.com/news/2009/july/jul22009.html#4

[26] Miller, J (2009-7-19) Bowe Bergdahl: soldier captured in Afghanistan identified as 23-year-old Idahoan.  Huffingtonpost.com.  Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/19/bowe-bergdahl-soldier-cap_n_239930.html

[27] A timelines of Sgt. Bergdahl’s captivity to release (2014-06-06) Associated Press.  Retrieved from: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/timeline-sgt-bergdahls-captivity-release

[28] Malkin, M (2009-07-20) Questions about the reported abduction of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl; update: reports of desertion mounting.  Retrieved from: http://michellemalkin.com/2009/07/20/questions-about-the-reported-abduction-of-pfc-bowe-bergdahl/

[29] The included link in the reference, at the time of the drafting of this work, produces a 404 error.  The subject author has been unable to verify the accuracy of the quote.

[30] Tobia, PJ (2009-07-20) Source: Bergdahl deserted.  Retrieved from: http://trueslant.com/pjtobia/2009/07/20/source-bergdahl-deserted/

[31] Hastings, M (2012-06-07) America’s last prisoner of war.  Rolling Stone.  Retrieved from: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/americas-last-prisoner-of-war-20120607

[32] Schmitt, E, H Cooper and C Savage (2014-06-02)  Bowe Bergdahl’s vanishing before capture angered his unit.  New York Times.  Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/us/us-soldier-srgt-bowe-bergdahl-of-idaho-pow-vanished-angered-his-unit.html?hp&_r=1

[33] US soldier captured by Taliban: ‘I’m afraid’ (2009-07-19) CNN.  Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/07/19/afghanistan.soldier.hostage/

[34] Bethea NB (2014-06-02) We lost soldiers in the hunt for Bergdahl, a guy who walked off in the dead of night.  The Daily Beast.  Retrieved from: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/02/we-lost-soldiers-in-the-hunt-for-bergdahl-a-guy-who-walked-off-in-the-dead-of-night.html

[35] Ewing, P (2014-06-03) Department of Defense: 2009 Bowe Bergdahl review is classified.  Politico.  Retrieved from: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/bowe-bergdahl-pentagon-army-investigation-2009-disappearance-classified-107376.html

[36] Savage, C and E Schmitt (2014-06-05) Bergdahl is said to have history of leaving post.  New York Times.  Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/06/world/asia/bowe-bergdahl-walked-away-before-military-report-says.html

[37] The identity of the individual as Bergdahl was not confirmed by the US Department of Defense until July 19, 2009.  Bergdahl was initially listed as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown on July 1, 2009 and then Missing-Captured on July 3, 2009.  See: DoD Announces Soldier Status as Missing-Captured (2009-07-19) US Department of Defense.  Retrieved from: http://www.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=12827.  The confirmation is noted as per the following: ‘Even before his (Bergdahl’s) name became public, two US defense officials confirmed to The Associated Press that the man in that 28-minute video was the captured soldier.’  See: Associated Press (2009-07-20) Soldier held in Afghanistan is 23-year-old Idahoan.  Retrieved from: http://www.kake.com/news/national/headlines/51223437.html

[38] Ibid 32.

[39] The number and identities of such individuals may have varied as a function of time.  It is quite possible that the three civilians ‘captured’ were not party to Bergdahl’s disappearance from Observation Post Mest Malak.

[40] The video released on July 18, 2009 has a number of hard edits.  It is not beyond the ken of reason to hypothesize that the entirety of the video was not filmed at the same time and place.

[41] The organization derives its name from the Zadran Pashtun anti-Communist and anti-Soviet commander, ‘Goodness personified,’ Jalaluddin Haqqani.  For background on the Haqqani network, see: Ruttig, T. (2009) Loya Paktia’s insurgency: the Haqqani network as  an autonomous entity.  In: Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field (A Giustozzi, Ed.).  New York: Columbia University Press (pp. 57-88).  Also: Dressler, J (2010) The Haqqani network: from Pakistan to Afghanistan.  Institute for the Study of War.  Retrieved from: http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Haqqani_Network_0.pdf

[42] Walsh, D (2009-07-19) Taliban release video of captured US soldier.  Guardian (UK).  Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jul/19/afghanistan-captured-american-soldier-video

[43] Ibid Abrashi at 23.

[44] Ibid 25.

[45] Ibid 19.

[46] See: Rassler, D and V Brown (2011) The Haqqani nexus and the evolution of al-Qa’ida.  West Point: The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point.  Retrieved from: https://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/CTC-Haqqani-Report_Rassler-Brown-Final_Web.pdf.  The key footnotes in the reference are 6, 30 and 136.  Also: Gopal, A, MK Mahsud and B Fishman (2010-04) The battle for Pakistan: militancy and conflict in North Waziristan.  New America Foundation.  Retrieved from: http://counterterrorism.newamerica.net/sites/newamerica.net/files/policydocs/northwaziristan.pdf

[47] Roggio, B (2013-09-06) Mullah Sangeen Zadran, al Qaeda commander reported killed in drone strike.  Long War Journal.  Retrieved from: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/09/mullah_sangeen_zadra.php#Also: Roggio, B (2013-10-01) Haqqani network said to name successor to Mullah Sangeen.  Long War Journal.  Retrieved from: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/10/haqqani_network_repo.php#

[48] Ibid 20.

[49] Ibid 21.

[50] Ibid 22.

[51] Sieff, K (2014-06-04) Exclusive: Afghan villagers recall when Bergdahl stumbled into their midst.  Washington Post.  Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/06/04/exclusive-afghan-villagers-recall-when-bergdahl-stumbled-into-their-midst/.  Yusuf Khel is approximately 12.5 kilometers to the northeast of Observation Post Mest.

[52] The coordinate locations are 33.2745315, 068.5822854.  This is approximately 34 kilometers, slightly east of north, of Observation Post Mest, and located near the vicinity of Chawni.

 

About the Author(s)

Jai Singh holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master of science degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Southern California and a master of arts (with honors) degree in intelligence studies with a focus on terrorism and counterterrorism from the American Public University.  His master of arts thesis focused on the strategic, theater and tactical evaluation of the Haqqani network.  His works have previously been published in the Small Wars Journal and the Journal of Strategic Security.  He is currently employed in private practice, working as an expert in the fields of accident reconstruction and trauma biomechanics.  His research interests include, but are not limited to, the development of mathematical modeling methods for studying the governing issues surrounding the sociological phenomenon of insurgency and terrorism.