US probes soldier's capture in Afghanistan
US forces in Afghanistan are investigating how an American soldier held by the Taliban disappeared from a military base, while pursuing a massive manhunt for the private, a spokeswoman said Friday, reported AP.
Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, 23, was officially listed as missing-captured on July 3, three days after he failed to turn up for duty. But the circumstances of his disappearance are unclear.
US military officials originally said he walked off an outpost in eastern Afghanistan. But in a video clip posted online at the weekend by his captors, Bergdahl says he was snatched while on patrol.
According to a statement picked up by the US-based monitoring service SITE Intelligence, Taliban militants claimed the soldier was drunk.
"The circumstances of his disappearance are certainly being looked at," a US military spokeswoman in Kabul, Christine Sidenstricker, told AFP.
"Any time something like this happens we're certainly going to investigate how and when it happened to try to make sure that we have appropriate processes in place, and rules and procedures are followed."
She was unable to give any details of the investigation or any preliminary findings, but said the hunt for the soldier continued.
"The operation to recover Private Bergdahl is one of the largest operations in Afghanistan right now. We are continuing to do everything we can to get him back safe," Sidenstricker said.
President Barack Obama has said the video of Bergdahl released by the Taliban on July 18 was "heartbreaking". In it, Bergdahl chokes back tears as he speaks of missing his family and calls for US troops to leave Afghanistan.
Bergdahl tells the camera he was trailing a patrol when he was captured, which contradicts earlier US military accounts that said the soldier voluntarily left his base at night when he was taken by the militants.
The abduction is believed to be the first time militants have snatched an American soldier in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.
About 57,000 US troops are currently on the ground in Afghanistan alongside 33,000 NATO troops from nearly 40 nations trying to help stabilise a country in the grip of a worsening Taliban rebellion.