Author Note: Since this story was reported on FOX by James Rosen last week, Bergdahl validated the part about being kept in a cage during his debrief. The SITREP detailing that from 2010 and the one from 2012 about Bergdahl's actions in captivity (declaring himself a mujahid, shooting and hanging out with his captors etc.) are included in full here. I know personally that previous reports from Eclipse Group have saved lives in Afghanistan, a topic we will revisit next week.
The story from FOX last week about secret documents regarding SGT Bowe Bergdahl's actions during captivity was a bombshell. Rosen received a cache of intelligence reports from the Eclipse Group, a private firm run by former CIA Senior Operations Officer Duane "Dewey" Clarridge. I also have these reports and have discussed them at length with my long-time friend, an Eclipse analyst directly involved in producing the reports, and sources involved with CENTCOM operations.
The most explosive report, SITREP #3023, discussed Bergdahl’s behavior while in captivity.
“Conditions for Bergdahl have greatly relaxed since the time of the escape. Bergdahl has converted to Islam and now describes himself as a mujahid. Bergdahl enjoys a modicum of freedom, and engages in target practice with the local mujahedeen, firing AK47s. Bergdahl is even allowed to carry a loaded gun on occasion.”
Rosen properly included warnings from Eclipse about the reliability of the information as the source for this report was brand new and the information had not been corroborated. Not every other news outlet has been equally as accurate. These statements about Bergdahl have spread virally and been accepted as fact or treated as fantasy in too many instances. SITREP #3023’s full caveat reads as follows:
"Contact Description: A member of the Haqqani Network close to Mullah Sangeen. He is a new contact whose reliability has not yet been tested, but he does have plausible access to the information reported below, and claims to have seen Berghdal personally in Shawal."
It is important for those outside the intelligence community encountering this information to understand this was a raw report intended to be evaluated in context. My analyst friend explains, "Reports like this should be relied on to build a complete picture, not taken as a complete picture. This was provided to CENTCOM as one piece of information for their internal intelligence assessment and because it could affect what their options were for recovering Bergdahl."
Options included diplomatic efforts such as the trade the President eventually accepted, as well as rescue missions of various sorts. "If there's a danger that Bergdahl is suffering from something like Stockholm Syndrome, that affects how you evaluate the hazards of a kinetic rescue," my friend stated. "We proposed working through clandestine efforts to walk him out using those of our contacts he already knew, so he could be extracted from somewhere that wasn't a hardened Haqqani defensive position. Factions in the government were on all sides regarding how to free him, but the prisoner exchange was the political leadership's favored position from the beginning."
Another of the other Eclipse Group reports Rosen referenced has been validated by Bergdahl himself in his debriefings. The report from 2010 stated:
Subject: Missing US Soldier to be placed in a Metal Cage DOI: 23 August
2010 DOA: 24 August 2010 Source Description: An Haqqani Commander in
North Waziristan 1. As of 23 August 2010, the Mullah Sangeen part of the Haqqani Network, which holds the missing US soldier, has begun to construct a metal cage in which to hold him. This is because of his repeated attempts to escape.
The Eclipse reports were not “leaked” government documents. Eclipse is not a government entity, consequently its reports are categorized as open source information and not classified as some reports have stated. "We were trying to help recover an American soldier," my friend said. "These reports were aimed at helping the government build its picture, and understand its options for bringing him home."
Many of the other SITREPs from Eclipse come from much more developed and reliable sources and they show some disturbing things. Exclusive reports this week will highlight negotiations with terrorists, failure to consider other options for Bergdahl’s release, and the probability of cash payments as part of the deal.
The full picture of deliberations within the Obama administration and the details of this deal are starting to come together, and they are not pretty. US laws and policies have been violated, dangerous terrorists are back in the game and although we did get our soldier back, we paid what should have been a prohibitive price.
Date: 13-08-2012, 1700 Zulu
Contact Description: A member of the Haqqani Network close to Mullah Sangeen. He is a new contact whose reliability has not yet been tested, but he does have plausible access to the information reported below, and claims to have seen Bergdahl personally in Shawal .
Subject: Update on the Whereabouts and Living Conditions of Captured US Soldier Bowe Bergdah
Raw Report: In the early stages Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s captivity, he was held at Palasin, Naurak, FATA, under the control of Mullah Sangeen and under the direct supervision of Haji Mursaleem, Sangeen’s father. Conditions and locality changed after Mursaleem died, and Bergdahl was kept under tight guard after his attempted escape from his new place of detention in Shawal.
As of August 2012, the person with responsibility for Bergdahl’s captivity is Sangeen’s brother, who has delegated the actual guarding of Bergdahl to Abubakr Asadkhel, a Burra Khel Wazir loyal to Sangeen, and whose sub-tribe lives in Shawal. Abubakr leads approximately 200 armed men from his tribe and operates from five bases (markaz) in Shawal. (Source Comment: Abubakr’s tribe is one of the prosperous branches of the Wazir and owns lots of trucks.) Abubakr circulates his prisoner between schools in the area he controls, and his different insurgent bases.
Conditions for Bergdahl have greatly relaxed since the time of the escape. Bergdahl has converted to Islam and now describes himself as a mujahid. Bergdahl enjoys a modicum of freedom, and engages in target practice with the local mujahedeen, firing AK47s. Bergdahl is even allowed to carry a loaded gun on occasion. Bergdahl plays soccer with his guards and bounds around the pitch like a mad man. He appears to be well and happy, and has a noticeable habit of laughing frequently and saying “salaam” repeatedly. Source Comment: Bergdahl’s laughter is infectious and the others find themselves laughing with him. Bergdahl likes to make faces and then laugh. Shawal has such good weather that it is easy to build up one’s health there.) END