Freed soldier's ex: 'What do I do now?'
Monica Lee was 19 when her boyfriend Bowe Bergdahl was kidnapped by the Taliban. He has just been released after five years in captivity, Monica meanwhile has moved on with her life, finding love elsewhere.PT1M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-39cqh 620 349 June 2, 2014
Miranshah, Pakistan: Freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl developed a love for Afghan green tea, taught his captors badminton, and even celebrated Christmas and Easter with the hardline Islamists, a Pakistani militant commander says.
Sergeant Bergdahl, the only US soldier detained in Afghanistan since war began in 2001, was released on Saturday in exchange for the freeing of five senior Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay, in a dramatic deal brokered by Qatar.
A video released by the Taliban in 2010 containing footage of Bowe Bergdahl. Photo: AP
The army sergeant's almost five years in captivity saw him transferred between various militant factions along the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan border, finally ending up in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal district, according to militant sources.
A commander of the Haqqani network, a militant outfit allied with the Taliban with ties to al-Qaeda, on Sunday painted a picture of a man who adjusted to his new life by engaging with his captors while clinging to aspects of his own identity.
"He was fond of kawa [Afghan green tea]. He drank a lot of kawa all day, which he mostly prepared himself," the commander told Agence France-Presse by phone from an undisclosed location in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was captured in unknown circumstances in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009 Photo: AFP
Over time, Sergeant Bergdahl, now 28, grew fluent in Pashto and Dari, he said.
Unlike the militants, who were mainly ethnic Pashtuns known for their voracious appetite for meat, Sergeant Bergdahl "liked vegetables and asked for meat only once or twice a week", the commander said.
While the militants attempted to teach the soldier about Islam and provided him with religious books, he preferred more earthly pursuits.
"He would spend more time playing badminton or helping with cooking," the militant chief said. "He loved badminton and always played badminton with his handlers. In fact, he taught many fighters about the game," he added.
And the Idaho native made a point of celebrating the Christian festivals he was accustomed to back home, even inviting his captors to participate.
"He never missed his religious festivals. He used to tell his handlers they were coming up weeks before Christmas and Easter and celebrated it with them," he said.
Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said the militants would have regarded Sergeant Bergdahl as a high-value asset and harming him would have had a negative impact on their propaganda efforts.
"These groups usually treat hostages that way," he said.
The insights into Sergeant Bergdahl's life are the clearest to emerge since he was captured in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009 and appeared in a Taliban video a month later.
"I was captured outside of the base camp. I was behind a patrol, lagging behind the patrol and I was captured," Sergeant Bergdahl said in the video, later growing distraught when discussing his family.
According to the commander, Sergeant Bergdahl then came under the custody of the late Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a key leader in the Haqqani network.
An Afghan Taliban source added that Sergeant Bergdahl fell into the group's hands after initially being captured by a criminal outfit linked to the Taliban.
Militant sources disagree over the circumstances surrounding his capture, but several - then and now - described him as being "drunk".
The US military has never commented on the issue.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel demurred on Sunday when asked by reporters if Sergeant Bergdahl had gone AWOL (absent without leave) or deserted his post, saying only that "other circumstances that may develop, and questions - those will be dealt with later".
The operation to free Sergeant Bergdahl was launched after intelligence showed that his health had deteriorated, Mr Hagel said.
"We believed that the information we had ... was such that Sergeant Bergdahl's safety and health were both in jeopardy," he said on Sunday.