WASHINGTON — The Taliban released a video Wednesday of a man identified as an American soldier captured in Afghanistan last June, showing him pleading for his freedom and to be returned home.
In the video, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl says he wants to return to his family in Idaho and that the war in Afghanistan is not worth the number of lives that have been lost or wasted in prison. It is the first he has been seen since the Taliban released a video of him on Christmas Day.
The seven-minute video of Bergdahl shows him sporting a beard and doing a few push-ups to demonstrate he’s in good physical condition. There was no way to verify when the footage was taken or if he is still alive.
Pentagon officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bergdahl disappeared June 30 while based in eastern Afghanistan and is the only known American serviceman in captivity. The Taliban claimed his capture in a video released in mid-July that showed the young soldier appearing downcast and frightened.
In the sometimes choppy video issued Wednesday, Bergdahl talks about his love for his family, his friends, motorcycles and sailing.
“I’m a prisoner. I want to go home,” he says in the video, which was made available by Washington-based Site Intelligence Group, which monitors militant Web sites. “This war isn’t worth the waste of human life that has cost both Afghanistan and the U.S. It’s not worth the amount of lives that have been wasted in prisons, Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, all those places where we are keeping prisoners.”
At times speaking haltingly, as if holding back emotions, Bergdahl — clad in what appeared to be an Army shirt and fatigues — clasped his hands together and pleaded: “The pain in my heart to see my family again doesn’t get any smaller. Release me. Please, I’m begging you, bring me home.”
He added that he is strong and is “given the freedom to exercise” and to be a human being, even though he is a prisoner.
Lt. Col. Tim Marsano of the Idaho National Guard said Wednesday that Bergdahl’s family was not aware of the new video. But he said the community of Hailey has reminders all over town of Bergdahl’s capture, including signs wishing for his safe return and yellow ribbons.
“The community has definitely not forgotten Bowe Bergdahl, and the family continues to appreciate the support,” said Marsano. “It’s been a difficult nine months. With the support of family, friends and community members, they are doing as well as anyone could expect in this kind of situation.”
U.S. officials have said that there were indications as recently as late January that Bergdahl was still alive.
At the end of the video, a speaker, reportedly Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, demands the release of a limited number of prisoners in exchange for the American.
Military officials had notice prior to the first video of Bergdahl released by the Taliban last summer, giving them time to alert his family before its public release. It was unclear Wednesday whether military officials knew this new video was coming.
Bergdahl, who was serving with a unit based in Fort Richardson, Alaska, was 23 when he vanished just five months after arriving in Afghanistan. He was serving at a base in Paktika province near the border with Pakistan in an area known to be a Taliban stronghold.