Afghan intelligence think Bergdahl was ‘probably high’ when he left base
By News.com.au reprinted at NY Post
June 5, 2014 | 8:25am
As the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from his US military base in 2009 continues to grow, two questions remain: was he trying to find the Taliban? Or did he simply wander away and get captured?
If Bergdahl did walk off his base voluntarily before ending up in the hands of the Taliban — as several of his former fellow soldiers are claiming — it may not have been the first time he wandered away, Fox News reports.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban after walking away from his unit, unarmed, in 2009.
His release after five years of Taliban captivity in Afghanistan has sparked a debate over whether the 28-year-old should be given a hero’s welcome or punished as a deserter.
A classified 2010 Army investigation concluded Bergdahl had “willfully walked off base”, two senior defense officials told Fox News.
The report cited testimony from Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers who said he had walked off the base alone before — out of “boredom”.
The report stopped short of calling the soldier a deserter, in part because Bergdahl had not yet been interviewed in order to determine his intent.
“You can’t have desertion without intent,” one official said
Adding to the mystery, the Washington Post has spoken to a group of Afghan villagers who say they spotted Bergdahl shortly after he slipped away from his base.
They told the paper they had forgot about their 2010 sighting of the Bergdahl — who appeared to be deliberately heading towards Taliban strongholds — until they saw his face on the news this week.
‘We think he probably was high after smoking hashish’
- Ibrahim Manikhel, the district’s intelligence chief
“We think he probably was high after smoking hashish,” Ibrahim Manikhel, the district’s intelligence chief, told the Washignton Post.
“Why would an American want to find the Taliban?”
The villagers said Bergdahl was walking through the area in a haze. They later told Afghan investigators that they had warned the American that he was heading into a dangerous area.
“They tried to tell him not to go there, that it is dangerous. But he kept going over the mountain. The villagers tried to give him water and bread, but he didn’t take it,” Manikhel told the Washington Post.
One thing is for certain, Berghdal was acting strangely in the days leading up to his disappearance.
His former squad team leader told Fox News the soldier had asked for help to get his computer mailed home.
Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow said Berghdal had been asking him strange questions such as what would happen to him if his military gear turned up missing.
“Him walking away from the base, that wasn’t surprising to me,” Buetow said.
“Things that he said to me personally, things that he said to others in the platoon, they were not that shocking or alarming at the time. But when he walked away, that light bulb went off, and it was like, ‘Yep, he walked away’.
‘He was attempting to contact the Taliban of his own accord’
- Sgt. Evan Buetow, Bergdahl's squad leader
“In the days following, with all the assets we had in the area looking for him, we heard over the radio chatter that there was an American looking for someone who spoke English so he could talk to the Taliban. I heard that right over the radio and right from the interpreter’s lips when he said it. That alarmed everybody. We knew at that point that he had walked away, but he was attempting to contact the Taliban of his own accord.”
Meanwhile, Bergdahl’s hometown abruptly cancelled plans for a welcome home celebration, citing security concerns over the prospect of big crowds — both for and against the soldier.
The town of 8000 has been swamped with hate mail and angry calls over Bergdahl’s release.
The Taliban released a 17-minute video of his handover showing a thin, tense-looking Bergdahl being patted down for explosives by US forces before climbing aboard an American helicopter in the dusty Afghanistan desert.
Just before he was turned over, one of his Taliban captors leaned in and warned him: “Don’t come back to Afghanistan. You won’t make it out alive next time.”