The Afghan Taliban have published a video showing the release of Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who was held as a prisoner of war after leaving his unit in Paktika province in 2009. The video also includes footage of the release of five dangerous Taliban commanders who were exchanged for Bergdahl. The publication of the video is clearly an attempt by the Taliban to capitalize on the propaganda value of the prisoner swap.
The video, which was posted on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Facebook page, shows armed Taliban fighters parked in a field guarding Bergdahl, who is sitting in a Toyota Hilux pickup truck, as two US Blackhawk helicopters circle above before approaching to land.
Bergdahl, who is not handcuffed and is wearing local clothing, is then escorted from the pickup truck and stands with his Taliban guards. The cameraman pans across the landscape to show several fighters in varying positions. A narrator speaks as the cameraman records.
After one helicopter lands, two Taliban fighters (one of whom is holding a white flag) and Bergdahl immediately walk toward it and meet with three men; two appear to be US special operations forces personnel and the other appears to be an Afghan. Two of the these men briefly shake hands with the Taliban, and Bergdahl is quickly escorted to the helicopter.
One of the special forces operators frisks Bergdahl throughout the exchange, clearly looking for a possible suicide bomb.
As the helicopter departs, the words “Don’ [sic] come back to afghanistan [sic]” are superimposed on the image.
In the second half of the video, the Taliban show the release of the five senior al Qaeda-linked leaders who were freed from Guantanamo Bay and sent to Qatar as part of the prisoner swap. The video shows a convoy of SUVs driving through Qatar, and then the five commanders exiting the vehicles. Dozens of presumably Taliban officials who have gathered to welcome the freed Taliban commanders embrace each of them.
The five freed Taliban commanders have been identified as Abdul Haq Wasiq, an intelligence official; Mullah Norullah Noori, senior military commander; Mullah Mohammad Fazl, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of defense; Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, the Taliban’s former governor of Herat province; and Mohammad Nabi Omari, a senior leader. JTF-GTMO had previously recommended that all five remain in custody as they posed a threat to the US. [See LWJ reports, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl exchanged for top 5 Taliban commanders at Gitmo, and Taliban says ‘five senior leaders’ have been ‘liberated’ from Guantanamo.]