WASHINGTON – Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is physically well despite nearly five years as a Taliban captive, but confinement in a small space and other harsh treatment has left him psychologically unstable, a senior U.S. official briefed on his medical treatment said Monday.
Bergdahl is “struggling with psychological issues” that his doctors are hoping to ease before they agree to send him from Germany, where he is being treated in a U.S. military hospital, to another facility in Texas, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Bergdahl’s condition.
Bergdahl otherwise is being treated for minor gum and skin ailments. He has been under doctors’ care since he was released in eastern Afghanistan on May 31 in a trade for five Taliban prisoners from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Bergdahl’s health appears far less dire than White House officials initially portrayed it. After his release, officials said they acted swiftly, in part, because his health appeared in jeopardy.
Bergdahl was subject to abuse at times during his years in captivity, but U.S. officials stopped short of calling his mistreatment torture.
“The treatment was harsher at some points than at others,” the official said. “Physically, he’s in good shape but psychologically, they are still working with him to get him ready to fly” to the U.S.
The 28-year-old soldier has so far declined to call his parents, has not responded to a letter written to him by his sister, and prefers to be referred to as private first class – the rank he held before his capture – rather than as sergeant, the official said.
“He feels he hasn’t earned it,” the official said of his promotion to sergeant, which was made while Bergdahl was a captive.
The official said that Bergdhal may telephone his parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, at any time. His decision not to do so is not considered unusual for a prisoner who was under strict control of others for nearly five years, the official said.