Bowe Bergdahl is the only American prisoner the Taliban has to trade. As it is, he could be the key to ending the longest war in America's history. Now the United States government just needs to figure out how to get him back.
Bergdahl has been unaccounted for by the Army since June 30, 2009, when he walked off base without explanation and with few supplies. By early that evening, he had been captured by the Taliban. Three years later, there aren't many signs of progress in getting Bergdahl back.
In email correspondence with his family before his disappearance, Bergdahl expressed a growing unhappiness with his experiences in Afghanistan. His unit was filled with incompetent soldiers and a lack of leadership. His negative tone in these emails has made some question his commitment to the Army.
Five days before his disappearance, Bergdahl’s unit suffered its first casualty. Two days later, Bergdahl wrote his final emails home, filled with unhappy thoughts on how his experience at war had unfolded.
On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl left camp armed with only a digital camera, his knife, his diary and some water. It was the last time anyone would see him as a free man.
Within 24 hours, U.S. intelligence intercepted a conversation between two Taliban fighters discussing their new American prisoner. The fighters understood that they could use their new find to lure the Army search teams into their territory.
The next day, there was an opportunity to free Bergdahl during a face-to-face meeting between American forces and two tribal elders representing the Taliban. When the Taliban asked for 15 soldiers and a sum of money, the American rep hesitated. Bergdahl was spotted only seen once more, in July -- in the back of a Toyota with a bag over his head -- before the first of three propaganda videos surfaced on YouTube.
In the first video, Bergdahl appears to be still somewhat coherent and speaks in calm, measured tones as he’s forced to read anti-American propaganda. Unfortunately, the soldier appears progressively worse in the following videos, causing worry among his family members back home.
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Bob Bergdahl, Bowe’s father (pictured to the left), has grown increasingly impatient with rescue efforts. Clashing political agendas in Washington have made negotiations with the Taliban difficult. With American forces incapable of getting on the same page, it’s been nearly impossible to create a united front long enough to bargain.
The fact that Bergdahl left on his own has also created an awkward situation for the Army. Not all soldiers defend his rescue and don’t think it’s proper to give up prisoners for his return. All of this led to Bergdahl’s dad posting his own YouTube clip pleading for the return of his son. To this date, Bergdahl, the only American POW, remains in enemy hands.