Reports: Bergdahl Declines to Talk to Family

Sunday, 08 Jun 2014 06:35 PM

By Greg Richter

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has apparently been given an opportunity to talk to his family by telephone while he recovers at a U.S. military hospital in Germany, but has declined the offer, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Journal quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying doctors are moving slowly with Bergdahl because of the continuing controversy over his release. He was held almost five years by the Taliban-connected Haqqani network after being seized outside his base in Afghanistan.

Urgent: Approve of Obama’s Taliban Swap? Vote Here

But after President Barack Obama announced Bergdahl's release in a Rose Garden ceremony May 31 with Bergdahl's parents on hand, and White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Bergdahl served with "honor and distinction" on television the next day, Bergdahl's former platoon members began to criticize him publicly.

Bergdahl walked away from his post without telling anyone in 2009 and was quickly seized and taken into captivity. He had walked off base on at least one prior occasion and returned.

Some of his platoon members have said he is a deserter,  but a military investigation of his disappearance won't be complete until Bergdahl gives his own account. A 2012 Rolling Stone article quoted Bergdahl as telling his parents in emails that he was ashamed to be an American.

Bergdahl's release is also receiving political fallout. Members of Congress from both parties have criticized Obama for releasing five high-level Taliban officials from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without consulting them, as is legally required.

The White House has argued that Bergdahl's health and safety were at risk, making 30 days notice impossible.

Further, Bergdahl's own father, Bob, has been criticized for speaking Arabic at the Rose Garden ceremony and for seeming to sympathize with his son's captors by growing a long beard and advocating via social media for release of all the Guantanamo detainees. The elder Bergdahl has said he wanted to appear sympathetic to the Taliban in hopes of securing his son's release.

But threats against the family and Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, have forced the cancellation of a planned welcome-home celebration later this month.

All the controversy could play into Bergdahl's psychological recovery.

He continues to improve physically, but continues to need care psychologically as a result of his captivity, an official told NBC News

Defense officials confirmed to NBC that Bergdahl was "locked up" and had "his movements restricted" after one of his five attempts at escape. The official said, "It’s not clear whether it was a small cell or a box, but he was apparently closely confined."

The New York Times reported that Bergdahl was put into a "shark cage."

As to reports that Bergdahl was tortured, the official told NBC that "he was clearly treated more harshly at some times," but it is unclear whether that treatment ever rose to the level of torture.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told The Associated Press on Friday that Bergdahl was kept under "good conditions."

Urgent: Approve of Obama’s Taliban Swap? Vote Here

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