The Pentagon rejected the idea of a rescue mission for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl because he was being moved so often by his Taliban captors that U.S. special operators would have had to hit up to a dozen possible hideouts inside Pakistan at once in order to have a chance at rescuing him.
That’s according to U.S. officials, who also say the Obama administration also did not want to risk the political fallout in Pakistan from another unilateral U.S. raid, like the Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Bergdahl had also twice tried to escape, so the militants guarding him had stepped up their numbers, further complicating any potential rescue attempt.
“A rescue mission would have been fraught politically as well as tactically,” according to a senior defense official briefed on the Bergdahl case.
The lack of information about Bergdahl’s whereabouts shows how few options the administration had, and why officials felt negotiations with the Taliban were their best option. His repeated attempts to escape also call into question those who call him a deserter who did not intend to return to the U.S. army’s ranks.
The White House released five high-ranking Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay prison over the weekend in return for Bergdahl’s freedom, sparking outrage from lawmakers who were kept in the dark until the trade was done. Law requires Congress to be given 30 days notice before a prisoner is released from Guantanamo, but White House officials say Bergdahl’s deteriorating health necessitated the rapid action.
Senators shown the Taliban's proof of life video Wednesday that was pivotal in the White House’s decision making process say he did not look well, but argue that should have been shown to them before the release was negotiated.
At the same time, many soldiers who served with Bergdahl have spoken out against him—blaming Bergdahl for wandering off his post, and for diverting needed intelligence and surveillance resources to hunt for him. Some soldiers even blame Bergdahl for the deaths of a half-dozen troops, although those claims have been disputed.
Bergdahl was turned over to U.S. special operations forces by Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, an event the fighters filmed and turned into a propaganda video released on Jihadi websites Wednesday.
Two more U.S. officials and a former Afghan official said Bergdahl escaped his Taliban captors twice during his five years of captivity, once in the fall of 2011 as then reported The Daily Beast, and a second time, believed to be sometime in 2012. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
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