By Greg Richter
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl converted to Islam during his captivity by the Haqqani network in Afghanistan and even declared himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam, Fox News reports.
Fox News obtained secret documents based on an eyewitness account of at least part of Bergdahl’s five-year captivity that began when he reportedly walked off his base in June 2009.
The documents show that Bergdahl’s relationship with his captors changed over time. He at one time was held in a cage after being recaptured when he had escaped. But at other times he had a seemingly friendly relationship with his captors, playing soccer and frequently laughing and using the word “salaam” – Arabic for “peace.”
He also participated in target practice with his captors and was allowed to carry a gun, according to the reports.
The documents were generated by the Eclipse Group, Fox reports. Eclipse is a private intelligence agency founded by former CIA officer Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, who was indicted in the Iran-Contra scandal, but pardoned during his trial by President George H.W. Bush.
Clarridge told Fox News that Eclipse was a subcontractor for U.S. Central Command from November 2009 through May 31, 2010. After that, he said he invested $50,000 of his own money into maintaining his informant network in Afghanistan.
The work resulted in a series of dispatches on Bergdahl’s activities and condition over the years. They began in October 2009 and ended in August 2012, Fox reports.
Thirteen early reports, including the one in which Bergdahl reportedly referred to himself as a “mujahid,” were sent to Brigadier General Robert P. Ashley Jr., director of intelligence at CENTCOM.
U.S. Marine Corps General James N. Mattis, who served as CENTCOM commander from August 2010 to August 2012, told Fox News that Ashley may have forwarded bits and pieces of the reports to him, but he had not seen the specific reports Fox News cited.
Fox News talked to experts who said the reports, if true, do not necessarily indicate Bergdahl converted to Islam or that he joined their war cause. He could have suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, in which long-held captives sometimes begin to sympathize with their captors, or he could have feigned allegiance to survive.
Columnist Charles Krauthammer told Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” that the documents lend credence to the idea that Bergdahl did not intend to defect from the Army when he walked off base. The reports indicate he tried to escape his captors five times, he noted, saying that indicates he was not with them willingly.
Further, he noted, the military’s action in rescuing him also indicates it did not consider him an enemy combatant.
“You don’t go after a defector in order to rescue him. If you’re dealing with a defector … you kill him, the way we killed Anwar al-Awlaki,” he said.
The New York Times, meanwhile, wrote about the 35-page classified report made two months after Bergdahl’s disappearance, which according to people who have seen it makes no mention of Bergdahl being disillusioned with his military service, as some of his fellow platoon members have been telling the media in recent days.
The report does, however, contain reports of Bergdahl shipping his computer and a journal home before he walked away, Times sources said.