On June 30, 2009, soldiers at an American combat outpost in southeast Afghanistan discovered that one of their men was missing. His name is Bowe Bergdahl, and he’s been held captive for more than 4 1/2 years.
Actually, 4 years, 6 months and 23 days. The details matter. Ask John McCain.
Bergdahl’s plight – and the failed efforts to free him – returned to the spotlight last week, after U.S. defense officials disclosed the existence of a recent proof-of-life video (pegged as being “recent” because it apparently featured Bergdahl talking about the death of Nelson Mandela). It was the first proof that the soldier was still alive since a different video surfaced three years ago showing the Idahoan – gaunt and frightened not too long after he disappeared – speaking with captors and screaming at the camera, “Release me, please! I’m begging you – bring me home!”
Clansmen of the Haqqani criminal network had initially captured the soldier, although U.S. officials negotiated with the Taliban for Bergdahl’s release before those talks failed in 2012. His captors tied his freedom to the release of several comrades jailed in Guantanamo Bay over the past decade.
So there he sits, probably somewhere in the mountainous, lawless hinterlands where Afghanistan and Pakistan meet to form a border that exists only as a thin line on a map. Bergdahl, promoted from private first class to sergeant in absentia during his captivity, has become a pawn in a game being played by forces indifferent to his fate.
Uncle Sam has his Kevlar top hat and half his body out of Southwest Asia, and I haven’t heard the sitting president utter the words “war” or “Afghanistan” in public comments for weeks – God forbid, with midterm elections around the corner. Big stories like the flaccid Obamacare rollout, Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures and terrorism fears at the Sochi Olympics have rightfully dominated the headlines.
But don’t forget about this young man. I imagine – I hope – that through years of despair, he still clings to the promise of seeing home again.
Click here to read Michael Hastings’ account of Bergdahl in Rolling Stone.
Click here to read a more recent CNN story about the proof-of-life video.
Click here to visit http://bringhomebowe.com/