Taliban: Drones almost killed Bergdahl

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Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was nearly killed several times by U.S. drone attacks, the Taliban told U.S. officials according to The Wall Street Journal

The Journal said it’s unclear whether that risk played any role in the swap for Bergdahl last weekend, or explains a pause in drone strikes in that region since December.

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Bergdahl was believed to be taken into Pakistan by his captors shortly after his disappearance in 2009, but it’s unclear how long he remained there before returning to Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, U.S. officials said the Obama administration had sharply curtailed its drone program in Pakistan after that country's government requested it, as it pursued peace talks with the Taliban. 

To search for Bergdahl, the U.S. military also dispatched surveillance drones, set up checkpoints on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and created a special command center at Bagram Air Field.

False tips provided by militants led U.S. soldiers into dangerous traps, the Journal reported.

Within the first week after Bergdahl disappeared, teams on raids entered a house rigged with explosives, a suicide vest set to detonate and a car wired with a bomb, a former special operations officer told the paper.

"We made every effort to find him," the officer said. "People weren't happy about it. We didn't like it, but we did what we were ordered to do."

Bergdahl’s comrades have said in recent days that at least six soldiers died searching for him, though Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday said he wasn’t aware of any specific instances.

“I don't know of circumstances or details of U.S. soldiers dying as a result of efforts to find and rescue Sgt. Bergdahl.”

Once the Army realized he was gone, soldiers rushed into a nearby town in eastern Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"We went to a school across the field, and a child told us that he saw him around 6 a.m. low-crawling toward the town, trying to find someone who could speak English," Justin Gerleve, who was then Bergdahl’s squad leader, told the paper. 

The U.S. military picked up communications among Afghans who talked about a U.S. soldier in the area looking for someone who spoke English, according to a U.S. military report obtained and released by WikiLeaks.