International Committee for the Red Cross Seeks Contact with Bowe Bergdahl


Bows for Bowe, along Capital Boulevard in Boise.
  • Bows for Bowe, along Capital Boulevard in Boise.
Last week we wrote about the status of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who has been held by a Taliban-affiliated group for nearly a year. Bergdahl is not technically a prisoner of war, though some of his supporters consider him a POW.

The Army has officially classified Bergdahl as missing/captured, which is defined as:

Missing/Captured — A casualty status applicable to a person who is not at his or her duty location and is determined to have been seized as the result of action of an unfriendly military or paramilitary force in a foreign country.

POW status, as defined in both international law and U.S. military manuals, requires that a soldier, “while engaged in combat under orders of his or her government, is captured by an enemy’s armed forces.” There are various versions of Bergdahl’s capture our there, including that he walked off base of his own volition, or the account given in the first video released after his capture in which he says he fell behind while on patrol.

Whatever the nature of his capture, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been working through contacts in Afghanistan to check in on Bergdahl.

“We’re continuing to try to get access to him,” said Bernard Barrett, a Washington, D.C.-based spokesman with the ICRC who spoke to Boise Weekly this week.

The ICRC is a neutral, international organization that helps ensure that international laws of war are followed. Barrett said the group does not get involved in negotiations over exchanges, though it may agree to pass messages back and forth for two parties.

“When there is a decision to release someone then if the two sides want us to get involved in the actual physical handoff then that’s something that we do fairly frequently,” he said.

The organization meets with a half a million prisoners every year to assess their conditions, but makes no judgment on their guilt nor advocates for their release.

“We’re concerned only with conditions of their detention,” Barrett said.

Barrett said the ICRC is in touch with Bergdahl’s family in Hailey and would report to them if they had a chance to visit with Bergdahl or confirm his condition.

Bergdahl turned 24 years old in the last month.