May 6, 2011 -- The father of Bowe Bergdahl, the only U.S. soldier to be held in captivity by the Taliban, released a statement on YouTube Friday pleading for the safe release of his son in the wake of the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden.
"Our son is being exploited. It is past time for Bowe and the others to come home," said Robert Bergdahl in a video statement posted on-line.
In the three-minute message, he addresses the Pakistani military and thanked the Taliban commanders holding his son.
"Strangely, to some, we must also thank those who have cared for our son for almost 2 years," said Bergdahl. "We understand the rationale the Islamic Emirate has made through videos ... our son's safe return will only heighten public awareness of this."
He asked the Pakistani Army, which has been fighting the Taliban in the border region, to help secure his son's release.
"Our family knows the high price that has been paid by your men in the Army and Frontier Corps. We give our condolences and thanks to the families of those who have fallen for Pakistan."
The video is the first public statement by Bowe Bergdahl's father since the Army private first class was captured. In the video, shot against a mountain backdrop, Robert Bergdahl wears a black shirt and a full beard.
The statement follows a video released by the Taliban earlier in the week featuring a 10 second clip of Bowe Bergdahl being blindfolded and led away by his captors. The appearance is the fifth time the Idaho-born U.S. soldier, now 25, has been seen since he was captured in June of 2009 along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Army spokesman Colonel Thomas Collins said that officials were studying the video and could not confirm if the shots were new or different than what had been released in previous videos.
An earlier Taliban video released in December, nearly 18 months into his captivity, showed a gaunt Bergdahl with a cut on his face standing with a senior Taliban commander responsible for his capture.
At the time of his capture, Bergdahl was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska before deploying to Afghanistan. He was promoted to Specialist while in captivity.
Bergdahl was lured from his post in eastern Afghanistan by several Afghan National Army soldiers on June 30th, 2009, and then taken by Taliban fighters in a nearby village, according to a senior Pentagon official.
Bergdahl was quickly moved to Pakistan, where he has been shuttled around several locations, primarily in North Waziristan, the Pentagon official said.
Reward Offered For Bergdahl
In the immediate days after Bergdahl's capture, U.S. forces began distributing a leaflet in eastern Afghanistan that warned, "If you do not release the U.S. soldier, then you will be hunted." A picture of an American soldier kicking in the door of an Afghan home covers the leaflet.
The U.S. military also had a succession of efforts to locate the missing soldier and free him. Initially, a reward of $25,000 for location tips was offered to Afghans in the eastern portions of the region from which he disappeared. According to a source involved in the effort, a large number of calls flooded, and overwhelmed U.S. military efforts.
Shortly after Bergdahl was taken prisoner, his captors filmed him making a brief statement and drinking tea and released the tape on the internet. They released a second video on Christmas 2009.
In a video released in April, Bergdahl was bearded and dressed in military issue clothing. He held up a newspaper, but the date of the paper's publication was not visible.
Bergdahl also performed push-ups to demonstrate his physical condition and said he was being treated well, despite being a prisoner.
But Bergdahl began to lose his composure as he talked to the camera.
"Release me please, I'm begging you," he said.
"I love my family. I haven't shown it very well because I've been pretty lost in my life and I don't think I've given my family the love that they've given me."
"Let me go," pleaded Bergdahl.