Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book recounts attempted Bergdahl mission

Navy SEAL says group tried to locate and free captured Idaho soldier

Express Staff Writer

This image of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released on the Internet during his captivity by the Taliban. Bergdahl has been a prisoner of war since the summer of 2009. Courtesy photo

    A personal account of Navy SEAL operations in Afghanistan has shed light on U.S. military operations said to have taken place in 2009 to free captured Hailey-area soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
    Recently published “No Easy Day,” written by former SEAL Matt Bissonnette under the pseudonym Mark Owen, was published without approval by the Pentagon. The author has been criticized by top U.S. military leaders for disclosing military secrets.
    “No Easy Day” details the killing of terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Bissonette writes that he took close-up photographs of Bin Laden’s’ face after he was killed in Abbotobad, Pakistan, in May 2011.
    “He looked younger than I expected. His beard was dark, like it had been dyed,” he wrote.
    Bissonnette also writes that he participated in 2009 in a night raid to free Bergdahl soon after Bergdahl was apparently captured by Taliban militants in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan.
    Bissonnette wrote that his team of Navy SEALs boarded a CH-47 Chinook helicopter under a full moon for a half-hour ride from their military base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to a building compound south of Kabul, to find Bergdahl.
    “We don’t have much intel to go off of, but this is a priority,” Bissonnette said he was told by his troop commander.
    He writes that the SEALs landed and approached the compound under enemy machine-gun fire. A grenade was shot into a building of Afghan fighters, whom Bissonnette later described as professionals, “not just some farmers who picked up an AK-47 when the crops weren’t in season.”

“We never found Bergdahl on that deployment … but in my gut, I think he was there at some point.”
Matt Bissonnette

    Surviving fighters then fled the compound, some on mopeds and others on foot. They were then chased in the night until being killed by U.S. snipers and a grenade tossed over a hay bale by “Owen,” Bissonnette wrote.
    The fighters’ remains and equipment were then destroyed by explosives, and one SEAL was injured in the leg during the raid, Bissonnette wrote.
    “We never found Bergdahl on that deployment … but in my gut, I think he was there at some point. We maybe missed him by a few hours, or maybe in the fight they were able to escape,” he wrote.
    Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta criticized Bissonnette on Tuesday for writing the tell-all book.
    “I think we have to take steps to make clear to him and to the American people that we’re not going to accept this kind of behavior,” Panetta told the CBS “This Morning” program, which broadcast the interview on Tuesday.
    Bissonnette wrote that his team was eager to recover Bergdahl in 2009 before he was transported to Pakistan and possibly traded to the Haqqani network, an insurgent group that began operating in Afghanistan in the 1970s.
    The U.S. State Department designated the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network as a terrorist group last week.
    According to a New York Times article published on Aug. 10, Haqqani suicide bombers in Afghanistan have since 2008 struck the Indian Embassy, hotels and restaurants and the headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and the American Embassy.

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