U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was frustrated with his mission and vanished into Taliban captivity

U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Haqqani Network, an affiliate group of the Taliban, in Afghanistan for five years, suffered “horrible abuse”, according to a U.S. defense official.

Bergdahl suffered torture, abuse and neglect, said Terrence Russell, a senior official with the U.S. military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.

“His experience ranks at the same echelon of the most horrible conditions of the last 60 years,” said Russell, who examined Bergdahl after he was released last year in exchange of five Taliban leaders.

Russell told a U.S. Army hearing in Texas on Friday that Bergdahl was held in a metal cage, and lived in isolation, and often blindfolded. Any more beatings would have killed him, he said.

Bergdahl was the only U.S. soldier ever to be captured by insurgents in Afghanistan. He was captured in the mountains of eastern Paktika province on June 30, 2009.

Bergdahl was the only U.S. soldier ever to be captured by insurgents in Afghanistan. He was captured in the mountains of eastern Paktika province on June 30, 2009

According to the details that emerged in a preliminary hearing last week, he was frustrated with his mission and his leaders just five weeks after his deployment in southeastern Afghanistan. He felt his leaders were not doing enough to counter the Taliban threat.

To prove a point and voice his grievances, he decided to run away from his platoon’s small outpost in Paktika. He wanted to stay away from his unit for a few days and then reappear about 31 kilometres away at a larger installation and voice his grievances.

He knew the area was unsafe, but he had “outsize impressions of his own capabilities,” according to an investigating officer, and was determined to grab the attention of senior commanders.

At 10.00 am the following morning, he was captured by insurgents, beginning four years and 11 months of captivity and torture, according to Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, who carried out an investigation of his actions.

In his last email to his parents sent just hours before he walked off his base, he launched a scathing attack at his forces. “The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at,” he wrote in the mail, which was later published by Rolling Stone magazine.

“It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs [sergeants] are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same,” reads the email.

He complained that three good Sergeants had been moved to another company and some undeserving officer was made in charge of the team, who he called “one of the biggest shit bags”. He termed the commander of his battalion the “conceited old fool”.

He was released on May 31 last year as part of a swap deal to set free five Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison. The release of Bergdahl was brokered by the Qatar government.

The deal raised many eyebrows. Many questions were asked, mostly by his fellow soldiers, about the circumstances under which he suddenly disappeared from the battlefield in 2009.

Some of his former colleagues accused him of betrayal. Nathan Bradley Bethea, a U.S. soldier who served in the same battalion in Afghanistan and was part of the operation to trace his whereabouts in the summer of 2009, in an article for The Daily Beast called Bergdahl “a deserter”.

Sergeant Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon when he went missing in June 2009, also questioned his motives. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him,” he told CNN.

He was released on May 31 last year as part of a swap deal to set free five Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison. The release of Bergdahl was brokered by the Qatar government 

The five Taliban leaders released included Khairullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari.

Qatar government agreed to take custody of the five Taliban leaders on the assurance that they would not pose any threat to the U.S. They were also barred from travelling out of Qatar for one year.

The travel ban slapped on them by the U.S. authorities was further extended by the government of Qatar in June.