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Taliban Wants to Exchange U.S. Soldier for ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’

Bowe Bergdahl, captured under cloudy circumstances, has been sentenced to death unless the exchange is made.

by
Annie Jacobsen

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February 11, 2010 - 11:00 pm
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Last week, a jury in a New York federal court convicted Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui on two counts of attempted murder. In 2008, while detained in Afghanistan, Siddiqui grabbed a rifle and fired at Army officers and FBI agents. Now, in the newest twist in the saga of the female terrorist dubbed “Lady al-Qaeda” by the New York press, Siddiqui’s family members have appealed to the Taliban to facilitate her release. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declared last week:

Give us Siddiqui and we will give you captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl’s story is its own strange tale, rife with rumor and conjecture. Accounts vary as to how he wound up a prisoner of the Taliban in the first place. The Taliban’s Mujahid says his fighters kidnapped Pfc. Bergdahl last June from Afghanistan’s Paktika province near Pakistan’s border with South Waziristan.

But KTVB-7 in Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, has a different version of the story. They say that the 23-year-old soldier “befriended some natives” while serving in Afghanistan, and “while out with them during his time off, he was taken hostage.” Shortly after his capture, Fox commentator Ralph Peters called Bergdahl a “deserter” and said that he deserves what’s coming to him. “The Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills,” Peters said.

Following Peters’ comments, Malcolm Nance — a 25-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community’s counterterrorism efforts — came to Bergdahl’s defense. Nance said that analysts who dared second-guess a soldier’s actions “are a disgrace.” He insisted that far more important was the fact that Bergdahl had managed to survive as long as he had. That was seven months ago.

Like all hostages, Bergdahl is under immense psychological stress. … His fate rests on the unknown and his life and freedom are in the hands of others. Already, he has managed to make it well past a point where other, more hardnosed soldiers would have been killed.

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