Taliban wants US response on Fort Richardson soldier

AFGHANISTAN: Idaho man held since capture in late june.

August 9, 2009 

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan -- A militant commander who is holding a Fort Richardson-based soldier abducted in Afghanistan said Sunday that Taliban leader Mullah Omar's council is waiting for a response to its demands before deciding the American's fate.

It was the first news of Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, made public since a Taliban video was released July 18.

Maulvi Sangin, an insurgent commander for eastern Afghanistan, said the Taliban's governing body was awaiting a response to demands it made to the U.S. for his return.

"The American's fate is in the hand of (leadership), which is waiting until a response from the Americans to its demands," Sangin told The Associated Press.

Sangin would not elaborate on the demands or say if any deadline had been given. A spokesman for Sangin had previously said the soldier would be killed unless the U.S. stops airstrikes in two areas of eastern Afghanistan.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was serving with the Alaska-based infantry regiment when he disappeared June 30, just five months after arriving in Afghanistan. He was serving at an eastern base near the border with Pakistan. The circumstances of his capture weren't clear. Details of such incidents are routinely withheld by the military to avoid giving away any information to captors.

Bergdahl is a member of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson.

Sangin, who spoke by telephone from Pakistan, refused to say on which side of the border Bergdahl was being held.

Last month, Afghans in contact with the Taliban told The Associated Press that the fighters had initially planned to smuggle the soldier across the border into Pakistan but ruled that out because of U.S. missile strikes and Pakistani bombing attacks against militant targets in the area. Instead, they decided to move him north into Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan's Ghazni province.

The Taliban move freely between the mountainous ethnic Pashtun areas on both sides of the border.

Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a U.S. military spokeswoman in Kabul, would not comment on the status of Bergdahl's case.

"We do not want to do anything that compromises his safety or efforts to recover him," she said. "Recovery efforts remain one of the largest ongoing operations and we are doing everything we can to get him back safely."

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