Afghanistan

US drones almost killed Bergdahl: Taliban

365859_BergdahlA recent report shows during secret negotiations over a prisoner-exchange deal, the Taliban militant group told US officials that Washington’s drone attacks had almost killed US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who was in Taliban’s captivity for nearly five years.

Citing US officials, a Wall Street Journal report published on Wednesday said during secret negotiations between Washington and the Taliban that led last week to the release of Bergdahl in exchange for five Afghan prisoners held at the notorious US-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, the Taliban warned the US that its drone attacks had come close to killing Bergdahl on several occasions.

Bergdahl was believed to be taken into Pakistan shortly after his unit at a US Army outpost in eastern Afghanistan discovered he was missing early on June 30, 2009.

Earlier this year, US officials said the White House had reduced the number of its drone attacks in Pakistan after the Pakistani government requested it but the Wall Street Journal report says it is unclear whether the Taliban’s warning played a role in the “apparent pause in drone strikes since the end of December.”

In order to find Bergdahl, the US military dispatched spy drones, established a special command center at Bagram Air Field, set up checkpoints on the Pakistan border, and even tapped into Central Intelligence Agency operators and National Security Agency intercepts, as well as military intelligence officers, special operations forces, and soldiers on the ground, the report said.

US forces started the search for Bergdahl immediately after his disappearance and were at times led into dangerous traps due to false tips provided by the Taliban.

Some say six Americans had been killed during searches for Bergdahl whom they accuse of deserting military service by leaving his post in Afghanistan’s Paktika province and going to a nearby village looking for someone who could speak English.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, however, rejected the allegations on Wednesday, saying “I don’t know of circumstances or details of US soldiers dying as a result of efforts to find and rescue Sgt. Bergdahl.”

On Saturday, the 28-year-old prisoner of war was handed over to US special operations forces following the secret deal between the Obama administration and the Taliban.

Republicans in Washington criticized the Obama administration for dealing with a “terrorist” group, with some even suggesting that the use of “military force” was preferred to a deal with the Taliban.

In a phone interview with Press TV this week, James Petras, professor emeritus at Binghamton University from New York, said the prisoner swap brought to light the contrast between how prisoners held by the Taliban and prisoners at Guantanamo are treated.

“The Taliban put the prisoner on trial; they had presented evidence of his guilt in committing crimes in Afghanistan; they sentenced him and they allowed him to live in a house, to read books, to learn Pashto, and communicate with his parents,” Jatras, who is also the author of 65 books, said.

“That contrasts with what the US has done to prisoners for 13 years; they’ve prevented the Guantanamo prisoners from communicating; they’ve never put them on trial; they’ve never presented any evidence of their committing any crime. I think the impact has been very important in showing the totally barbaric treatment that Washington has meted to its political prisoners in contrast to the Taliban which has followed international judicial norms,” he added.

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