A Black Hawk helicopter swoops in to pick up Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a valley in Afghanistan, in a video of the handover of the American prisoner of war that was posted online early Wednesday. The Pentagon says it’s reviewing the video; a spokesman says there’s no reason to question its authenticity.
The handover reportedly took place in eastern Afghanistan’s Khost province, near Pakistan. The video shows Bergdahl sitting in the back of a pickup truck, wearing white clothing. It also shows more than a dozen fighters positioned around the valley.
In the video, the Black Hawk helicopter lands with its side facing the area where Bergdahl and the Taliban fighters wait. As several people come out of the helicopter, the American is led toward them under a white flag.
The AP has posted a raw version of the video that includes the original audio track, with few words in English.
The exchange is over in seconds, as the participants hold up their hands to one another. The men — three from the helicopter, and two from the Taliban force — engage in quick handshakes, then they wave their farewells.
All the while, the scene was being filmed, with the photographer featuring the figure of Bergdahl and the helicopter.
“We have no reason to doubt the video’s authenticity, but we are reviewing it,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby says. “Regardless, we know the transfer was peaceful and successful, and our focus remains on getting Sgt. Bergdahl the care he needs.”
The exchange of Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has sparked a series of questions that range from the circumstances of the soldier’s capture in Afghanistan to the legality of the prisoner exchange — members of Congress say they weren’t given advance notice of the deal.
President Obama says the White House had spoken “for some time” about a possible prisoner swap for Bergdahl; his administration says it had to act quickly to free him.
A congressional hearing on the matter is slated for next week, NPR’s David Welna reports on today’s Morning Edition; more are expected to follow.
Yesterday, Secretary of the Army John McHugh said the service is happy to have Bergdahl back. He added that the Army will conduct “a comprehensive, coordinated effort that will include speaking with Sgt. Bergdahl to better learn from him the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity.”