We’ve told you recently about Ralph Peters, the Fox News analyst who accused a U.S. soldier, captured in Afghanistan, of deserting his buddies. Peters, a retired U.S. Army officer, said said the Taliban could save the U.S. “a lot of legal hassle” by executing the soldier.
But Peters’ heartlessness and stupidity aside, the underlying story of the captured soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, is worth a closer look too — especially because the Pentagon so far hasn’t given a clear story about just how Bergdahl ended up in enemy hands.
Let’s take a look at what’s been reported so far:
On July 2nd, the AP reported that, according to two anonymous U.S. officials, the military had intercepted communications between insurgents saying they had captured an American in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. A defense official told AP that a soldier had been noticed missing during a routine check of his unit a few days previously.
But the anonymous defense sources added some other curious information. They said his body armor and weapon were found on the base. And, in keeping with that, one source said initial reports suggested he was off duty at the time he went missing, having just completed a shift. Both sources said the soldier “just walked off” the base, with three Afghans, after he finished working, adding they had no explanation for why.
It was information like this — true or not — that seemed to prompt Peters’ despicable performance on Fox.
Since then, more claims have come out. In a video posted by his captors last week, in which he gives the date as July 14, Bergdahl says he was captured as he lagged behind while on a patrol. (Of course, Bergdahl was likely saying whatever his captors wanted him to — he also says US troops are suffering from low morale and should be brought back to the U.S. “where we belong” — so it’s hard to know how much stock to put in that.)
Then on Monday, ABC News reported that, according to an unnamed senior Afghan army official, Bergdahl had been taken from a village near his base. The Afghan official said that the captors “punched and hit the soldier after some resistance. But than they were able to take the soldier and left all of his things: weapon, body armored and radios.” The official said the operation had been carried out by men working with Mullah Sangeen, a top Afghan insurgent commander, and that Bergdahl may since have been moved to Pakistan.
And two Taliban spokesmen have said that their group was not involved in the kidnapping, and suggested that Sangeen was working with Siraj Haqqani, another insurgent who is believed to be responsible for the capture last year of New York Times reporter David Rohde.
CNN reported today that Sangeen had suggested in an interview that Bergdahl would be killed unless U.S. forces stopped targeting civilians. Sangeen also claimed that Bergdahl had gotten drunk while visiting a military post, and had been ambushed while returning to his car — a charge that a U.S. military source denied. Military sources also told CNN that they believe Bergdahl is still in Afghanistan.
And — for whatever this is worth — Peters went back on Fox News last night, where he said he’d been told by a “very senior military leader” that Bergdahl had indeed deserted. “He left his weapon of his own volition,” said Peters.
In that appearance, Peters also called Bergdahl a “nut” and suggested he’s “mentally disturbed.” In making those slurs, Peters may have had in mind recent news reports that suggest Bergdahl — an Idaho native who rode a bike, has learned ballet and worked as a barista in a coffee shop — doesn’t fit the Fox News profile of a culturally conservative grunt. But speculating on the what’s going on in Ralph Peters’s head seems like a dangerous game.
We’ve still seen nothing on the record from the Pentagon, which didn’t respond to a call from TPMmuckraker. The military is often loath to say much publicly in cases like this, for fear of jeopardizing efforts to secure the soldier’s release. But we’ll keep you posted as more solid facts come out.