by Rosie Brown
It has been 1,016 days, and Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl remains the only U.S. soldier to be held in captivity by the Taliban.
How many Americans know Bergdahl’s name? How many Whitworthians are aware that his hometown is Hailey, Idaho, and that he turned 26 years old on March 28 this year, his third birthday to be celebrated as a prisoner of war (POW) in Afghanistan?
Captured on June 30, 2009, Bergdahl, then a young, new soldier at the rank of Private First Class, has since been shown in five videos released by the Taliban, asking the U.S. government for ransom and the release of 22 Afghan prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay and Bagram prisons. One notable prisoner whom the Taliban wishes to have released is Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neurophysicist who attempted to murder U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and threatened to execute Bergdahl should the U.S. refuse to meet their demands.
While Taliban propaganda has claimed that Bergdahl was captured while drunk and off-base in the middle of the night, it has been corrected by the Department of Defense that Bergdahl was in fact ambushed after falling behind during a patrol. More Taliban propaganda has claimed that Bergdahl is cooperating with the Taliban in providing information and fighting against U.S. forces, though no evidence of these claims has been provided.
The most recent news of the only American POW was this past December, when it was learned that Bergdahl had attempted to escape his imprisoners three months before, but was recaptured three days later. Bergdahl had befriended his captors over the years, learning their language and helping hunt for food in the desert, and used this accumulated complacency to his advantage. Bergdahl was recaptured three days after his escape, found in a hole he had dug in the desert for cover. It is speculated that Bergdahl was attempting to reach a nearby village, whose custom is to welcome any stranger into one’s home. However, presence of the Taliban militia had driven the village away months before Bergdahl’s escape. Further news of his well-being is still being awaited.
Unlike previous conflicts, where the U.S. suffered numerous POWs, this conflict only has one man to rescue and bring home. Three years is too long, in my opinion, for a lone soldier to be a publicly paraded prisoner of the Taliban. Granted, the biggest difficulty with securing Bergdahl is the possibility that he is being shuttled between the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, the prolonged POW status of this man brings several issues to the surface.
First, there is the issue that most Americans do not even know we have one POW still in Afghanistan, let alone that he has been a POW for three years now. Why isn’t this covered by the media? The most national coverage was by Fox News in 2010 (two years ago), which reported that, according to a Taliban spokesman, Bergdahl was aiding the enemy. More Americans need to know and care that Bergdahl is not home where he belongs.
Second, the problem of indecision seems to be at play. I cannot say this is the case; however, perception is reality. I can understand what it means for the U.S. government to be stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to negotiating with terrorists. But, if it is decided that negotiation is not an option, then what other options are left? Furthermore, what other option shall we take? Hanging in limbo while Bergdahl remains in the hands of his captors is not the best decision, in my opinion.
Third, even more important than the American public or Bergdahl himself are his parents, who have been waiting every day for the past three years for good news. Living in Idaho, the two faithful parents started a grassroots campaign called “Bring Bowe Home” that has begun to spread like wildfire, thanks to a caring community and the help of the National League of POW/MIA Families, an organization that provides support and encouragement to families who must suffer through the ordeals of having a missing loved one in combat. For the parents of Sergeant Bergdahl, we as a nation should feel compelled to bring this American back home.
April 9 is recognized by the U.S. government as Prisoner of War Remembrance Day. It is important to remember the POWs of the wars long embedded in our nation’s memory, but also to remember the one POW of this current conflict who, as far as we know, is still alive! Remember Bergdahl and take action Let’s bring Bowe home.
Brown is a senior majoring in international business. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.