Afghan villagers wondered if Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was high on hashish after finding him wandering in their community, apparently heading towards Taliban strongholds. In interviews with the Washington Post, Afghan witnesses note that Bergdahl appeared to be seeking the Taliban after wandering away from his battalion.
Villagers tell the Post that they indeed saw Bergdahl, a lost American heading in what appeared to be the wrong direction. He did not appear to be interested in any aid or guidance and was alone. Some witnesses suspected he was on a covert mission but did not understand his behavior. “It was very confusing to us. Why would he leave the base?” Jamal, an elder in a village about half a mile from the American military installation, told the newspaper.
Another Afghan that encountered Bergdahl after his disappearance in 2009 noted that villagers attempted to tell Bergdahl not to walk towards the Taliban enclave. “The villagers tried to give him water and bread, but he didn’t take it… we think he probably was high after smoking hashish,” said Ibrahim Manikhel, an Afghan district intelligence chief.
The Washington Post interviews bring to the surface new evidence about a key unanswered question related to the Bergdahl affair: after leaving his battalion, how did Bergdahl find himself in the hands of the Taliban? The reports as to how Bergdahl left the base indicate that he did not lag behind but deliberately left his colleagues. Depending on the direction in which he traveled, he could have been found by friendly villagers or Afghan authorities that would have kept him from the Taliban. He ended up as a prisoner of war, and villagers are now saying that he appeared to be heading towards the Taliban and did not heed warnings when told he was entering dangerous territory.
Multiple soldiers that served with Bergdahl have alleged that the soldier appeared to have deserted the U.S. military. Bergdahl’s own words before disappearing into the enemy’s territory seem to corroborate that claim, and add not only that Bergdahl attempted to desert, but that he intended to side with the Taliban. Reports have surfaced that Bergdahl had expressed interest in renouncing his American citizenship. In emails to his parents, Bergdahl described the United States as “the most conceited country in the world,” refusing Afghans the “help” they deserve. “I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools,” Bergdahl wrote to them. His father replied, the night before Bergdahl left his base, “follow your conscience.”