Writing from a Taliban “prison,” Bowe Bergdahl urged his family and his government to wait until they had all the facts before judging him for leaving his base. Then Bergdahl explained, at least in part, why he left his fellow troops in 2009.
“Leadership was lacking, if not non-existent. The conditions were bad and looked to be getting worse for the men that where actuly (sic) the ones risking thier (sic) lives from attack,” he writes in a letter dated March 23, 2013 and obtained by The Daily Beast. It’s one of two letters sent by Bergdahl to his parents during his five years held by the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network in the tribal region of Pakistan.
“If this letter makes it to the U.S.A., tell those involved in the investigation that there are more sides to the cittuwation (sic),” he adds. “Please tell D.C. to wait for all evadince (sic) to come in.”
The copies of the two letters were given to The Daily Beast by sources in contact with the Taliban. U.S. and western officials confirmed they were the same letters delivered by International Red Cross from the Taliban to Bowe Bergdahl’s family. Together, they represent the first comment from Bergdahl himself on the controversy over his departure from his base in June 2009, leading to his capture. Fellow troopers have attacked Bergdahl, saying soldiers were injured and killed as military resources were devoted to the search for him.
Bergdahl was freed last month when the White House agreed to swap him for five senior Taliban members who had been jailed in Guantanamo Bay prison since 2002. The Obama administration has been assailed by Congress for making the trade without notifying them in advance, and for releasing the former Taliban fighters into the custody of Qatar, where they will be allowed to reunite with their families and live fairly freely though they’ll be monitored.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby declined to comment on the Bergdahl correspondence on why he left his base. He said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has “already made clear that the Army is going to review the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and captivity,” adding that “we need to reserve judgment until that process is complete.”
The handwriting in the two letters—one from 2012 and one from 2013—does not match, and the 2012 letter in particular transitions from greetings to the family into a long, rambling, almost lyrical philosophical missive about God and nature. But U.S. and Western officials say the family told administration officials that they believed the letters to be genuine. These sources spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private correspondence.
The text is also evocative of selections of Bergdahl’s journal published by The Washington Post Thursday, which he had mailed back to a close friend in the states before he disappeared.
The Bergdahl family in Bowe’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
International Red Cross spokeswoman Anna Nelson would not confirm that the letters were those delivered by her organization to the Bergdahl family.
“We do this in a strictly humanitarian capacity and the messages only include family news,” Nelson emailed Tuesday. The ICRC transmits thousands of messages every year between family members separated by conflict, including detainees—280,000 messages in 2012 alone. “Because of the private nature of the messages, the ICRC does not comment on their individual content and feels it should be up to the families to decide what they wish to do with them,” she wrote.
Bergdahl’s first letter to his parents, dated 27 November 2012, is addressed in care of “Geneve Red Cross,” and identifies the sender as “P.O.W. BOWE BERGDAHL, U.S. ARMY-AFGHANISTAN WAR PRISON,” though he was believed to be held in Pakistan. The letter is addressed to “FATHER ROBERT BERGDAHL-U.S.A.” following the format of ICRC messages.
“To my friends & family, in regards to the circomestance (sic) here, I am as well as can be here,” he writes. “I am given food and drink.”
The rest of the line is blocked out, which officials say is how it arrived to Bergdahl’s family. It continues, “…though spring is coming and when you read this it will be hot again.”
He writes of recent rain, and of wondering what spring is like at home in Idaho.
Another line is blocked out before it continues, “I pray everyone is well. I think about you all every day. And all the things that happened in my life. I miss you all, but as papa says, God’s will be done.”
The letter shifts into musings about faith, philosophy and more. “All things happen for a reason. Mathematics is full evidence of this. Just because we cannot understand the master equation does not mean it is not there,” he writes. “Math is God’s code for this Universe and beyond. I miss you all.”
“So take a breath with the wind on your face and feel the life flow through you,” he writes—something both he and Taliban officials say he wasn’t experiencing in Taliban captivity.
U.S. officials briefed on his recovery say he claims he was held in a cage in the dark for weeks at a time, sometimes even hooded except when drinking or eating.
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