The Taliban Release Captured American Soldier

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

After nearly five years in captivity, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released by the Taliban Saturday in a deal that sent five captives from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Qatar, according to the Washington Post.

The deal was brokered by the government of Qatar, which has agreed to host the five Taliban inmates in the Gulf emirate for at least one year. The men were en route to Qatar aboard a U.S. military aircraft as of early Saturday afternoon, a defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. They were being accompanied by representatives of the Qatari government.

This is how a military official described Bergdahl’s first moments after being released:

After the soldier was aboard a helicopter, he grabbed a paper plate and wrote the letters “SF?” to inquire whether the troops he was with were Special Forces, a senior Defense Department official said.

“Yes,” one of the members of the team responded. “We’ve been looking for you for a long time.”

Bergdahl broke down in tears.

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, U.S. Central Command commander, released the following statement:

“Earlier today Army Sgt. Bowe M. Bergdahl was returned to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. His safe recovery has been a focus and priority for me and this command since his capture five years ago. I am grateful to our partners in Qatar for their efforts, and proud of the many dedicated U.S. service members, civilians, and federal agents who have worked tirelessly to bring Bowe home. We look forward to reuniting him with his family.”

You can read the full Washington Post story and for perspective, listen to the father of Bowe Bergdahl in a plea to the Taliban more than two years ago:

 

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Afghanistan: U.S. Strategy Hit with Two Setbacks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP) Date not available.

KABUL, Afghanistan – The American campaign in Afghanistan suffered a double blow Thursday: The Taliban broke off talks with the U.S., and President Hamid Karzai said NATO should pull out of rural areas and speed up the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces nationwide in the wake of the killing of 16 civilians according to Associated Press reporters Deb Riechmann and Amir Shah.

The moves represent new challenges to America’s strategy for ending the 10-year-old war at a time when support for the conflict is plummeting. Part of the U.S. exit strategy is to transfer authority gradually to Afghan forces. Another tack is to pull the Taliban into political discussions with the Afghan government, though it’s unclear that there has been any progress since January.

Although Karzai has previously said that he wanted international troops to transition out of rural areas, the apparent call for an immediate exit is new. Karzai also said he now wants Afghan forces take the lead for countrywide security in 2013, in what appeared to be a move to push the U.S. toward an earlier drawdown.

You can read the full article HERE.

Taliban Vows Revenge for Afghan Civilian Killings

English: Afghanistan Opium Production for 2005...

Image via Wikipedia

The U.S. Embassy and American Forces are on alert for possible retaliatory attacks after the deaths of 16 Afghan civilians reportedly were killed by a lone U.S. Army soldier.

Taliban Retaliation (Associated Press)

The Taliban vowed revenge Monday after at least one American soldier shot to death 16 civilians in southern Afghanistan and burned their bodies, an attack that has fueled anger still simmering after U.S. troops burned Qurans last month.

U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have stepped up security following the shootings Sunday in Kandahar province out of concern about retaliatory attacks. The U.S. Embassy has also warned American citizens in Afghanistan about the possibility of reprisals.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for several attacks last month that the group said were retaliation for the Americans burning Qurans. Afghan forces also turned their guns on their supposed allies, killing six U.S. troops as violent protests wracked the country.You can read the full Associate Press article HERE.

Rapid, Thorough Investigation Promised (The Telegraph)

The International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, is promising a thorough investigation into the killing of civilian Afghans. The NATO coalition spokesperson, Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, promised a “rapid and thorough” investigation after a US soldier reportedly killed 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar.

You can read a full article from The Telegraph HERE.

Marine Video: Taliban Uses Questionable Images to Recruit

YouTube image.

The video of four Marines appearing to urinate on the bodies of slain enemy combatants is being used by the Taliban as a recruiting tool according to The Stars and Stripes.

Taliban leaders have already begun using the video for propaganda. In an emailed statement to the Associated Press, group spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that “During these 10 years American soldiers have tortured our people in various ways, they have shown disrespect to the holy Quran and other holy books, they have burned our bodies, they have killed and tortured our women and children and … have committed other hateful actions.”

To read the full Stars and Stripes article by Leo Shane II HERE.

Taliban Suicide Bomb Attack Kills at Least 16 in Afghanistan

Taliban tactics in Afghanistan now include female suicide bombers as well as suidce car bombs and insurgents dressed in Afghan National Army uniforms according to a report Saturday  by Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service.

The New York Times is reporting that 17 were killed  – including American forces, civilian contractors and Afghans. The suicide car bomb attack on a bus carrying personnel is said to be the deadliest attack on Americans in Kabul since the war began.

The Washington Post is reporting 16 were killed when a suicide bomber swerved a van into the armored military bus.

Below is the latest article from the American Forces Press Service article:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2011 – A car bomb smashed into an International Security Assistance Force convoy in Kabul today killing 13 coalition personnel, NATO officials said.

 Five of the dead are service members, and eight are ISAF civilian employees. The attack injured several Afghans and coalition personnel as well as innocent Afghan civilian.

News reports out of Kabul say the Taliban took credit for the car bomb attack, and reports indicate the car ran into what is popularly called a Rhino — essentially an armored bus.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was informed of the convoy attack soon after it happened. “His heart goes out to those who were killed and wounded, and to their families,” said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little. “Continuing our aggressive pursuit of the enemy will honor their sacrifice, and he is determined that the United States – working closely with our Afghan and NATO partners – will do precisely that.”

A second attack in southern Afghanistan took the lives of three more coalition personnel and wounded others when a man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform shot the soldiers.

ISAF Commander U.S. Marine Gen. John R. Allen condemned today’s terrorist attacks.

You can read the full article HERE.

Investigtion into Special Ops Helicopter Crash That Killed 38

On August 6th, the headlines were filled with news of the deaths of 30 U.S. Forces – 22 Navy SEALs and Navy Special Ops support personnel, 8 Air Force and Army personnel – when their CH-47 helicopter crashed in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. Seven Afghan soldiers, an interpreter and a military working dog also were killed in the crash.

The CH-47 Chinook was carrying an Immediate Reaction Force – a secondary force – that was called in to help with a mission to capture or kill an Afghan who was the senior Taliban leader in Tangi Valley.

The U.S. Central Command investigative report into that incident was released Wednesday. It confirms that insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade hitting the rear rotor blade causing the crash as the helicopter neared its combat landing zone.

The CENTCOM report by Brigadier Gen. Jeffrey Colt offered several findings including:

The investigation determined that operational planning and execution were consistent with previous missions, and that the forces and capabilities were appropriate given the agility required to maintain pressure on insurgent networks.

Each crewmember was fully qualified to perform the aircrew duties to which he was assigned.

There was no evidence of a pre-planned ambush, but rather the result of the enemy being at a heightened state of alert due to more than 3 hours of ongoing coalition air operations.

The investigation did disclose a “noteworthy” aspect that the intelligence gathering aircraft overhead were not relocated during the ongoing mission and prior to the arrival of the second IRF team in the Chinook helicopter. It further states better synchronization is needed between the use of intelligence gathering aircraft overhead and the helicopters carrying special operations forces to a mission site.

ISAF Strikes Taliban Linked to Downing Special Forces

The following is an ISAF Joint Command News Release:

KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed the Taliban insurgents involved with the recent downing of the CH-47 helicopter, with a precision airstrike in Chak District, Wardak province, Aug 9.

The strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the shot associated with the Aug. 6 downing of the CH-47 helicopter, which resulted in the deaths of 38 Afghan and coalition service members.

Mullah Mohibullah was a key facilitator in an insurgent attack cell led by Din Mohammad, a Taliban leader killed in a previous special operations mission. As a leader in Mohammad’s network in Tangi Valley, Mohibullah had as many as 12 Taliban fighters under his command, including potential suicide bombers.

On the night of the crash, the inbound CH-47 carried special operations forces intended to pursue insurgents from Mohammad’s network that were fleeing an engagement in which six militants had already been killed. While it has not been determined if enemy fire was the sole reason for the helicopter crash, it did take fire from several insurgent locations on its approach.

After an exhaustive manhunt, special operations forces located Mullah Mohibullah and the shooter after receiving multiple intelligence leads and tips from local citizens. The two men were attempting to flee the country in order to avoid capture.

The security force located and followed the insurgents to a wooded area in Chak District. After ensuring no civilians were in the area, the force called for the airstrike which resulted in the deaths of the Mullah Mohibullah, the shooter, and several of their Taliban associates.

The security force assesses no civilians were harmed during the strike.

The International Security Assistance Force website.

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