A Pentagon agency has concluded that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl showed definite signs of being drugged by his captors for a pivotal December video that spurred the Obama administration to trade five Taliban commanders for his release.
A U.S. official familiar with the report said the assessment was undertaken by the Defense Department’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
The source, who asked not to be identified because the report is confidential, said the agency concluded that Sgt. Bergdahl appeared drugged by his Haqqani network captors and that he appeared to be in deteriorating health. The report also said he appeared to be resisting his captors at the time, the official said.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said the department would have no comment on the agency’s work concerning Sgt. Bergdahl.
The Washington Times has reported that analysts believed Sgt. Bergdahl was made to appear ill in the video to prompt the Obama administration to make a deal.
That happened May 31, when the administration traded five senior Taliban commanders for the soldier’s release after five years as a prisoner of war.
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The video, which was obtained by the U.S. military but has not been released publicly, has been cited by senior Obama administration officials as the reason they moved so quickly to gain Sgt. Bergdahl’s freedom.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cited the sergeant’s health as a factor in supporting the exchange, which requires the five Taliban leaders to remain for one year in Qatar, the country that brokered the transfer and obtained the video.
The five apparently have no restrictions on communicating with Taliban brethren in Afghanistan and Pakistan. After one year, they will be free to return to Afghanistan and join the fight to bring down the democratically elected government in Kabul.
The Taliban leadership, which imposed oppressive rule on Afghanistan until the U.S. ousted the fanatical Islamic regime in 2001, has rejected President Obama’s desire for the Bergdahl release to lead to peace talks.
Republicans and Democrats have criticized the five-for-one trade and disagreed with the administration’s assessment on Sgt. Bergdahl’s health.
Two senators, after viewing the secret December video, independently made the assessment that the soldier appeared drugged.
SEE ALSO: Bergdahl’s parents got rare access to insiders; data for sympathizer of Gitmo detainees
“It appeared that he was drugged and that he was barely responsive in the video itself,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told reporters. “I don’t think, from a health standpoint, there was any issue that dictated the release of these five nasty killers in exchange for Bergdahl.”
Asked on CNN what he thought of the proof-of-life video, Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, said, “He’d been drugged, either with an antipsychotic or a hypnotic drug.”
Asked for evidence, Mr. Coburn, a physician, said, “Because you can tell. It’s easy. His speech was slurred. He was having trouble reading. He had what’s called nystagmus [involuntary eye movements]. He’d been obviously drugged.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told Bloomberg News, “I don’t think there was a credible threat” that Sgt. Bergdahl was about to be killed.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, asked Mr. Hagel in a letter last week to release the Pentagon assessment of the video.
“My understanding is that the document remains classified,” Mr. Hunter wrote. “I respectfully ask that you declassify the Bergdahl health assessment related to the December 2013 proof-of-life video.”
Brian Hale, spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, said three “main factors” compelled the director to support the transfer.
“The first was evidence that Sgt. Bergdahl’s health was deteriorating. Our judgment was that every day he was a prisoner, his life was at risk, and in the video received in January, he did not look well,” Mr. Hale said.
“Second was the fact that, as we draw down our forces in Afghanistan, we will have fewer resources available to dedicate to his recovery. Lastly, that the DNI was satisfied with the assurances from the Qatari government that these five individuals will be closely monitored and subject to travel restrictions,” he said. “These factors, considered together with other information, led to an even greater sense of urgency in pursuing his recovery.”
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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