WASHINGTON, (AP) – The American soldier who went missing June 30 from his base in eastern Afghanistan and was later confirmed to have been captured, said in a video posted by the Taliban that he’s “scared I won’t be able to go home.”
Two U.S. defense officials confirmed to The Associated Press that the man in the video posted Saturday on the Internet is the captured soldier, but the Defense Department has not released his name. The video provided the first glimpse the public has had of the missing soldier.
The soldier is shown in the 28-minute video with his head shaved and the start of a beard. He is sitting and dressed in a nondescript, gray outfit. Early in the video one of his captors holds the soldier’s dog tag up to the camera. His name and ID number are clearly visible. He is shown eating at one point and sitting cross-legged.
The soldier, whose identity has not yet been released by the Pentagon, says his name, age and hometown on the video, which was released on a Web site pointed out by the Taliban.
He said the date was July 14 and that he was captured when he lagged behind on a patrol.
He’s interviewed in English by his captors, and he is asked his views on the war, which he calls extremely hard, his desire to learn more about Islam and the morale of American soldiers, which he said was low.
Asked how he was doing, the soldier said on the video:
“Well I’m scared, scared I won’t be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner.”
He later chokes up when discussing his family and his hope to marry his girlfriend.
“I have a very, very good family that I love back home in America. And I miss them every day when I’m gone,” he said.
He is also prompted by his interrogators to give a message to the American people.
“To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it’s like to miss them, you have the power to make our government bring them home,” he said. “Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here, wasting our time and our lives and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country. Please bring us home. It is America and American people who have that power.”
A U.S. military spokeswoman in Afghanistan, Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, said the Taliban was using their captive for propaganda.
“I’m glad to see he appears unharmed, but again, this is a Taliban propaganda video,” she said. “They are exploiting the soldier in violation of international law.”
It is unclear from the video whether the July 14 date is authentic. The soldier says that he heard that a Chinook helicopter carrying 37 NATO troops had been shot down over Helmand. A helicopter was shot down in southern Afghanistan on July 14, but it was carrying civilians on a reported humanitarian mission for NATO forces. All six Ukrainian passengers died in the crash, and a child on the ground was killed.
On July 2, the U.S. military said an American soldier had disappeared after walking off his base in eastern Afghanistan with three Afghan counterparts and was believed to have been taken prisoner.
Details of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military as it works to retrieve a missing or captured soldier without giving away any information to captors.
But Afghan Police Gen. Nabi Mullakheil said the soldier went missing in eastern Paktika province near the border with Pakistan from an American base. The region is known to be Taliban-infested.
Afghans in contact with the Taliban told The Associated Press that the soldier was held by a Taliban group led by a commander called Maulvi Sangin, who operates in the area where the American went missing. They said the fighters 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 Ghazni province.
The Afghans spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of arrest or reprisal, and it was impossible to independently confirm their information.
A brigade commander for the Afghan national army in southeastern Afghanistan, Gen. Asrar Ahmad Khan, said Afghan and coalition forces have been working together for 15 days searching for the missing soldier.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the militants holding the soldier haven’t yet set any conditions for his release.