On the Radar
The video of the Taliban handing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over to the US military is one of the most fascinating pieces of footage the world has ever seen. But take another look. There’s a lot more to the tape than meets the eye, says retired Col. Steve Ganyard, a former Marine Corps pilot.
In an interview with On the Radar, Ganyard explains everything you see has a purpose.
“I’m sure there’s a whole series of things that the Taliban and US went through to build enough confidence to say ‘I’m not going to let you trick me’.”
The handover was in a valley so the Taliban could be “up in the hills and be able to fire downward on those helicopters in case the US does something that they don’t like,” explained Ganyard, an ABC News consultant.
But the U.S. had its own requirements, likely among them the white flag that the Taliban carried, and how the vehicles were parked.
“More than likely the US said ‘hey because we don’t want to be able to come in on parked cars that could be just anybody, we want you to raise the hood of your vehicle so it’s another signal that we have the right area’,” explained Ganyard.
While the Taliban and the US military knew what the plan was, Ganyard says that Bergdahl probably had no idea what was happening, his eyes blinking perhaps because he had just had a hood removed and he was adjusting to bright daylight.
“You think about what is he thinking at that point because he doesn’t know that he’s about to be let loose, he doesn’t know he’ll be free…he could just as easily be thinking at this point ‘I’m about to get executed on film for the Taliban’,” Ganyard explained.
Ganyard says while the Taliban warned Bergdahl never to return to Afghanistan, the body language indicated less severity, with the one Taliban patting him three times on the arm.
“When he gets told it’s almost like his uncle talking to him, leaning in the cab and talking to him.”
Ganyard described the US military’s deliberate choreography during the handover due to security concerns.
“The center US individual puts his hand around Bergdahl’s back and runs it down his back, that’s not a friendly gesture, what he’s doing is looking for a suicide vest, he’s looking for a bomb, he’s looking for wires, something that would potentially make Bergdahl a human bomb,” said Ganyard. “I’m sure that there was a real concern about having the Taliban turn him, or perhaps they could have turned him into a suicide bomber or threatened him and said ‘we now need you to blow yourself up in this helicopter’.”
And to be sure, the US military personnel conducted a secondary check.
“When they get to the edge of the helicopter there they begin a much more thorough pat-down, check the inside and outside of his legs, all around his back enough to say ‘ok, we’re pretty sure that he doesn’t have anything obvious or could bring down this helicopter’,” Ganyard explained.
To hear more about Ganyard’s revelations on the video including what it was like for the US helicopter pilots, check out this edition of On the Radar.
ABC News' Cindy Smith, Tom Thornton, Hank Brown and Gale Marcus contributed to this episode.