June 4 - Taliban release video they say shows moment U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl was handed to U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Video footage from the Afghan Taliban showed U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl being transferred from the hands of the Taliban to U.S. military officials in Khost province last week. The footage, which was posted on Al-Emara, a Taliban website, could not be independently verified by Reuters. It showed Bergdahl sitting in a car in the Batai area of Khost, surrounded by Taliban militants, before a U.S. helicopter carried him away. The militants were seen shouting "Long live the Mujahideen". Bergdahl, clean shaven, dressed in a white salwar kameez and with a shaved head, is seen waiting in a white pick-up truck as Taliban militants outside lean in to talk to him. He appears to blink in the bright light, assenting as they speak. The Pashto narration on the video said the Americans asked the Taliban where they should meet for the handover and the Taliban told them they could meet whereever the Americans wanted. A helicopter flew overhead and landed at a distance of about 100 metres from Bergdahl and his captors, who held white flags. The narration in the video said 18 armed militants were in the area on guard as the handover took place and that another helicopter landed on a hill nearby. The narration also said the U.S. military "was in a rush and did not greet (them) properly". As one of the helicopters lands throwing up a cloud of dust, Bergdahl is led to his rescuers by two men, one leading him by the hand and another waving a white cloth crudely tied to a wooden stick. Most of the Taliban have their faces covered with scarves, while Bergdahl wears his over his shoulders. They are greeted by three men who shake their hands and lead Bergdahl by the arm to the helicopter. The aircraft takes off and the message in English flashes up: "Don' come back to Afghanistan". Bergdahl, held for nearly five years in Afghanistan, was freed last week in a prisoner-swap deal with the Taliban brokered by the Qatari government. Five Taliban militants were released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and flown to Qatar. He was captured in unknown circumstances in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, about two months after arriving in the country. Many U.S. government officials say they believe he was seized after walking away from his unit in violation of U.S. military regulations. On Monday (June 2), Republican members of the U.S. Congress said President Barack Obama had set a dangerous precedent with the prisoner swap and might have broken the law. Obama on Tuesday (June 3) defended the operation to rescue Bergdahl, saying the United States was committed to freeing its prisoners of war regardless of how they were captured. The Pentagon says Bergdahl is in a stable condition at the U.S. Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where doctors are assessing his condition after five years of captivity. Officials have indicated there is little desire to pursue any disciplinary action against him given what he has been through. The U.S. military has not said how Bergdahl fell into the insurgents' hands, but several of those from his unit say he became disillusioned with the war and abandoned his post during a nighttime guard shift, an act of desertion that would normally incur severe punishment.