A picture taken from the Taliban video shows Sergeant Bergdahl (right) with an unidentified Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan just before Bergdahl was handed over to American officials. (AP)
June 4: The Taliban has released a video showing the handover of the captive American soldier Bowe Bergdahl as it emerged that top US officials including Hillary Clinton had opposed the prisoner swap which led to his release.
The 17-minute video, shot in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan last week, shows Sergeant Bergdahl being handed over to US special forces troopers under a deal that saw five Taliban leaders freed from Guantanamo Bay.
The Washington Post reported today that the Obama administration began considering plans for a rescue within months of Bergdahl’s capture in June 2009 and subsequently began to discuss a prisoner exchange.
The newspaper said that White House advisers thought a prison swap would not only secure the freedom of the only American held prisoner in Afghanistan but would “encourage moderate Taliban members to take an Afghan-led reconciliation process seriously”.
But it said that the proposal had been opposed by Leon Panetta, then CIA director, Robert Gates, defence secretary, and Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state until February last year.
According to the newspaper’s account, the prisoner swap proposal was taken up again a year ago by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was concerned that time was running out before the US combat mission in Afghanistan ends later this year.
Hillary Clinton, who is now mulling a presidential tilt, has publicly backed the prisoner swap announced by President Obama at the weekend.
The video released by the Taliban shows clean-shaven Sergeant Bergdahl sitting in the back seat of a Toyota Hilux with several armed Taliban around him. One is holding the white flag of the Taliban attached crudely to a stick.
Sergeant Bergdahl, 28, who was held for five years after being snatched after allegedly walking off his base in eastern Paktika province, appears slightly gaunt and is shown blinking repeatedly. It is likely he was blindfolded when transported from where he was being held to the rendezvous point in Khost province.
As he sits in the truck, a militant talks to him before a message flashes across the screen that reads: “Don’ come back to afghanistan” (sic).
The video includes propaganda celebrating the release of the five Afghan Guantanamo Bay inmates released in exchange for Sergeant Bergdahl.
It shows them being greeted on the roadside in Qatar, which brokered the deal, and where the five will spend at least the next year. Their future after that remains unknown — American officials have said they are confident they will pose no risk to the US.
As Sergeant Bergdahl is about to be handed over, two US Black Hawk helicopters are shown circling above. One of the captors can be heard saying in Pashtu “Do not panic” as the camera zooms in on one of the approaching helicopters.
One of the helicopters lands and three non-uniformed men disembark and meet Sergeant Bergdahl and his captors. The Americans and Sergeant Bergdahl’s captors shake hands before one of the Americans lightly frisks Sergeant Bergdahl’s back and torso. The Americans then wave goodbye to the captors before escorting him to the helicopter.