The US military yesterday denounced the release of a video showing a soldier captured in Afghanistan, calling the images Taliban propaganda that violated international law.
The video shows the soldier in traditional Afghan dress, being prompted in English by his captors to call for US forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
“The use of the soldier for propaganda purposes we view as against international law,” military spokesman Captain Jon Stock said, confirming that the man in the video was the missing soldier, whose name has not been released. “We are continuing to do whatever possible to recover the soldier safe and unharmed.”
The US military was distributing leaflets last week seeking the release of the soldier, missing since late last month.
Military spokeswoman Captain Elizabeth Matthias said it was the first case she was aware of in which a US service member was held captive by the enemy in Afghanistan, although there have been similar cases in Iraq.
The video has not appeared yet on Web sites regularly used by the Taliban or al-Qaeda.
In the video, portions of which were available on the Internet video sharing site YouTube, the soldier appeared with his head shaven and a slight beard, wearing traditional gray, loose-fitting Afghan shalwar kameez clothing.
He appears to be in good health and is shown drinking tea and eating bread and rice. When he speaks to the camera, a voice can occasionally be heard prompting him in English.
“Well, I am scared. I’m scared I won’t be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner,” the soldier says. “I have my girlfriend who is hoping to marry. I have my grandma and grandpas. I have a very, very good family that I love back home in America.”
A voice off camera prompts: “Miss them.”
The soldier continues: “And I miss them every day that I’m gone. I miss them and I’m afraid that I might never see them again and that I’ll never be able to tell them that I love them again. I’ll never be able to hug them.”
At one point the voice prompts: “Any message to your people?”
“Yes. 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,” the soldier says. “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.”
Mawlavi Sangin, a senior Taliban commander in Paktika Province, the southeastern area where the soldier went missing, told reporters on Thursday his men were holding the soldier and would kill him if the military applied pressure to find him.
Some US leaflets dropped in the area showed a US soldier shaking hands with smiling Afghan children and read: “One of our American guests is missing. Return the guest to his home.”
But others were more aggressive, showing soldiers kicking in the doors of a house, with the words: “If you do not release the US soldier you will be hunted.”
Cases of US troops going missing have been rare during the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Iraq, three soldiers were captured by insurgents after a firefight in 2007 in an area south of Baghdad known as the triangle of death. One was killed shortly after his capture, while the other two were found dead nearly two months later.