What the Taliban's Bergdahl Exchange Video Reveals

PHOTO: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, right, stands with a Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan, in this image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting.
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U.S. government officials will be studying every frame of the dramatic new video taken by the Taliban and posted online of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's rescue for clues to what it reveals about the soldier’s captivity and his captors.

"That moment before the hand-over is electric. You know that anything can happen," said British war filmmaker Sean Langan, who was held hostage by the same Taliban faction in 2008.

In one of the most striking images in the video, Bergdahl -- his beard and hair shaved off -- is shown in close-up, squeezed into the back of the small Toyota Hilux pickup truck, squinting and blinking as if the sunlight hurts his eyes.

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Langan, held by the same Haqqani network as Bergdahl, was kept for four months in total darkness in a farmhouse room with the windows blacked out.

As soon as Bergdahl was led across a dry, open plain by two Taliban, an American operative put his hand behind Bergdahl, possibly to check his back for anything deadly hidden underneath his traditional salwar kameez outfit.

PHOTO: Video released by the Taliban reportedly shows the handover of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, May 31, 2014 in Afghanistan.
ABC News
PHOTO: Video released by the Taliban reportedly shows the handover of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, May 31, 2014 in Afghanistan.

A few steps away at the open door of a Black Hawk chopper filled with U.S. special operators in full kit with night-vision goggles affixed to their helmets, Bergdahl got a quick -- but complete -- pat-down to check for weapons or a suicide vest.

"You just always make sure nobody has anything on them before getting on a helicopter," a former Army special operations soldier told ABC News.

The hand-off reportedly took place early Saturday morning in Khost province, an arid place where months after Bergdahl's 2009 capture, a triple agent allowed into a CIA base blew himself up, killing seven agency officers. The attacker, a Jordanian doctor, was not patted down.

PHOTO: Video released by the Taliban reportedly shows the handover of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, May 31, 2014 in Afghanistan.
ABC News
PHOTO: Video released by the Taliban reportedly shows the handover of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, May 31, 2014 in Afghanistan.

The Taliban video -- posted on one of the group's websites and titled "Don't Come Back To Afghanistan" -- starts by showing as many as a dozen well-armed militants awaiting the American helicopter. Some stood near the white pickup truck, with Bergdahl sitting in back, and others were shown pulling security on nearby hillsides.

Though they appeared to be outmanned, the former special operations member told ABC News, "My guess is, they [the Americans] were prepared to prepared to engage if they had to."

At one point the video zooms in on one bearded mujahid, who wields his folding-stock Kalashnikov rifle western-style with his finger laid over the trigger guard. He has the trendy high pants cuff of Salafist fighters often associated with al Qaeda, a longtime ally of the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban group that held Bergdahl. The fighter also wore what appeared to be a small GPS device used by U.S. special operations forces.

Other fighters covered their faces with kaffiyeh scarves, but not all. Some carried rocket-propelled grenade launchers or PKM light machine guns.

A militant talking to him has a kaffiyeh oddly perched in his left arm. The Taliban has used such material as blindfolds in the past so that their safehouses cannot be identified later using satellite photos.

PHOTO: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, in this image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting.
Voice Of Jihad Website/AP Video/AP Photo
PHOTO: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, in this image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting.

"It makes sense they would have covered his head on the drive there," Langan told ABC News on Tuesday after watching the video. But as for Bergdahl's rapid blinking, Langan said he suspected "it has as much to do with adrenaline and shock."

Bergdahl, who also wiped his eyes in one shot, looked otherwise fit in his light powder blue salwar kameez with a traditional Pashtun "patu" heavy shawl on his seat in the Toyota.

"I remember thinking, this is not the time to panic. I went into mental shutdown," Langan recalled of his own reaction to be handed over from the Haqqani network to negotiators in Pakistan after four months of captivity.

At one point two fixed-wing aircraft buzz by, likely small surveillance aircraft equipped with high-tech cameras and listening devices. The former soldier told ABC News the U.S. likely had a "ton" of ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft in the area to watch over the exchange.

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