Military veterans are denouncing as cruel propaganda the latest Taliban claim that U.S. Army prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho is teaching the terrorists bomb-making and ambush skills.
The veterans and active duty personnel, as well as Bergdahl’s parents in Hailey, won’t speak on the record because they’re afraid their words could jeopardize Bergdahl’s safety. But privately, many of them believe anything Bergdahl says or does while in captivity should be viewed as coerced.
Bowe, 24, of Hailey, was captured by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, while serving with an Army unit and is the only U.S. military member known to be held prisoner by enemy forces.
Two British newspapers — The Sunday Times and the Daily Mail — are reporting that a senior Taliban official claimed Bergdahl has converted to Islam and has taught them how to use a cell phone to remotely detonate roadside bombs.
The Taliban official, who called himself Haji Nadeem, claimed to be a deputy district commander in Afghanistan’s Paktika province in the southeastern part of the country. The newspapers reported that Afghan intelligence officials searching for Bergdahl also believe he is cooperating with the Taliban and acting as an adviser to them.
Nadeem claims Bergdahl now goes by the Muslim name Abdullah.
Idaho National Guard Public Affairs Officer Col. Tim Marsano, who is acting as a spokesman for Bergdahl’s family, said news of the latest claims by the Taliban have been passed along to the family. The family has asked for media privacy, fearing anything they say could be used against Bergdahl.
The Taliban has released three videos of Bergdahl, including one in April that showed him pleading to be returned to his family and saying the war in Afghanistan is not worth the waste of human life.
Military veterans the Journal spoke with Sunday noted that former POWs have said claims they made during captivity were forced and against their will.
In a statement regarding the April video, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Greg Smith denounced the video as a deplorable act of propaganda that would only fuel the country’s efforts to locate Bergdahl.
“The insurgents who hold Bowe are obviously using him as a means to ultimately cause pain to his family and friends,” Smith said in a statement.