The AfPak Reader

September 10, 2009

Mainlining Bill Roggio – Summer 2009 – Week 2 – Volume 7

Mainlining Bill Roggio – Summer 2009 – Week 2 – Volume 7

Haqqani Network captures US soldier in Afghanistan
By Bill Roggio
July 2, 2009 1:23 PM

The Haqqani Network has captured a US soldier who was based in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika. The soldier, who has not been identified, had reportedly been captured after walking off of his small outpost.

The US military has confirmed a solider has been missing since June 30 and believes he has been captured by the Taliban.

“A US Soldier, who has been missing since June 30 from his assigned unit, is now believed to have been captured by militant forces,” US Forces Afghanistan said in a press release.

“We are exhausting all available resources to ascertain his whereabouts and provide for his safe return,” the US military continued. “We are not providing any further details at this time in order to protect the welfare of the Soldier.”

The soldier apparently walked away from a small combat outpost in Paktika province and was quickly captured by Haqqani Network fighters driving in a truck, Stars & Stripes reported.

The US military has launched a massive manhunt in eastern Afghanistan, and has devoted one to two platoons per battalion to the search operation.

“All activities in the region other than force protection have ceased because the effort now is to find our soldier,” Major Jose Aymat, the executive officer at Camp Clark in Khost province, told Stars & Stripes.

Haqqani Network behind the kidnapping

Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior lieutenant to Sirajuddin Haqqani who controls Paktika province, took credit for capturing the US soldier and said his fate is in the hands of Sirajuddin and the Taliban leadership.

“The case will be referred to Sirajuddin Haqqani and other Taliban top leadership,” Sangeen told CBS News. “They have to decide the future of the US soldier, but we would not mind a prisoner exchange in this case.”

Led by the respected mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj, the network is well-organized in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Haqqani Network has been behind some of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan, and it receives direct support from elements within Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency and military.

Over the past month, the US military has targeted Siraj, Sangeen, and the network during a series of raids and airstrikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sangeen was almost captured during a raid on a Haqqani fortress in Paktika province, while both Siraj and Sangeen were the targets of US Predator airstrikes inside the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan in Pakistan. Since June 27, the US military has killed and captured dozens of Haqqani Network fighters and a mid-level commander.

Late last year, the Haqqani Network kidnapped a reporter for the New York Times and brought him to North Waziristan in Pakistan. The reporter escaped from the compound last month.
Extended Notes (Roggio’s Links)

Missing U.S. Soldier Captured
U.S. Forces Afghanistan  
Courtesy Story
Date: 07.02.2009
Posted: 07.02.2009 08:12

KABUL, Afghanistan – A U.S. Soldier, who has been missing since June 30 from his assigned unit, is now believed to have been captured by militant forces. We are exhausting all available resources to ascertain his whereabouts and provide for his safe return.

We are not providing any further details at this time in order to protect the welfare of the Soldier.



U.S. forces searching for missing soldier in Afghanistan
By Dianna Cahn, Stars and Stripes
Online edition, Thursday, July, 2, 2009

KHOST, Afghanistan – U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan are conducting an intense search for a soldier who wandered off his post and is now presumed captured by the Taliban, a spokeswoman for U.S. Forces Afghanistan confirmed Thursday.

For reasons not disclosed, the soldier walked away from his unit on Tuesday, and the military has information from local Afghans that he was captured, said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias.

“We have basically been trying to find him in every way possible,” Mathias told Stars and Stripes.

Col. Greg Julian, the chief spokesman for U.S. Forces Afghanistan, said the soldier was captured in the Paktika province, where he was deployed in a small outpost. He said an investigation was under way to determine what led to the soldier’s disappearance on Tuesday.

Julian said there has not yet been any direct communication with the kidnappers, but U.S. forces had reason to believe the soldier was still alive. He would not elaborate.

The Department of Defense has yet to release the soldier’s identity, but his family has already been notified and his identity was likely to be released later on Thursday, Julian said.

Among the units deployed to help search for the missing soldier was a unit from Camp Clark in Khost province, just north of Paktika, where the search is under way.

U.S. forces from the region have been diverted to the area where the soldier went missing. The region borders the South Waziristan tribal areas , where the Pakistani military has launched an offensive to capture top Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

Maj. Jose Aymat, the executive officer at Camp Clark, said reports from Paktika indicate that the soldier was captured by two individuals in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. He said battalions deployed across eastern Afghanistan have each committed one or two platoons to join the search effort and they have cordoned off the area where they think the soldier is being held.

“All the roads (in and out of the area) are pretty much under the control of U.S. forces and the ANA (Afghan National Army),” Aymat said. “All activities in the region other than force protection have ceased because the effort now is to find our soldier.”

Information heard over radio communciations indicate that the Taliban is considering whether to negotiate a deal or ransom in exchange for the soldier’s release, Aymat said.

At Clark, there was a sense of frustration at the situation created by the soldier’s capture.
Troops wondered not only why a soldier would take such a risk, if his disappearance happened as reported, but also whether he’d indicated to his fellow soldiers his plans. Many questioned why the soldier’s leadership was not aware that he was in distress.

Other soldiers said they were concerned that the concerted effort to find the soldier was putting so many forces at risk, while leaving other areas with less forces to carry out their own missions. Several missions were canceled because so much air power was diverted to Paktika.

By midday Thursday, CBS News posted a story on its Web site saying a Taliban commander had called one of their reporters to claim they were holding the soldier, along with three Afghans, near the Pakistani border.

The Taliban commander, who spoke to CBS by satellite telephone, said the soldier’s fate would be decided by Taliban leaders, but that the militant group “would not mind an exchange of prisoners in this case,” CBS reported.

The last high-profile incidence of a servicemember going missing in Afghanistan was under much different circumstances.

In June 2005, a SEAL team tracking a high-ranking Taliban commander was ambushed in eastern Afghanistan.

Three of the team members were killed in the initial battle, but a fourth, Marcus Luttrell, was able to walk and crawl seven miles after being badly wounded to avoid capture. He was given shelter in a village and was eventually rescued by U.S. forces six days after the original battle.

At the time, the U.S. military for several days listed all four members of the SEAL team as missing, until details of the fight and confirmation of the deaths were later released.



July 2, 2009
Taliban Seize U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan
Military Confirms One Serviceman Missing For 3 Days; Militants Say They May Consider Prisoner Swap

(CBS/AP) An American soldier is feared captured by insurgents after he walked off his base in eastern Afghanistan without his body armor and weapon, officials said Thursday.

The military has intercepted communications in which insurgents talked about holding an American, one U.S. official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

A Taliban commander confirmed to CBS News’ Sami Yousafzai Thursday that militants had captured one U.S. soldier and three Afghan nationals in Paktika province, near the Pakistani border.

The Taliban commander, who spoke to Yousafzai via satellite telephone from the region, said a group of militants cornered the American soldier and his Afghan counterparts near a U.S. military base and took them hostage.

He said the captives’ fate would be decided by Taliban leaders, but that the Islamic extremist group would consider a prisoner swap.

“The case will be referred to Sirajuddin Haqqani (senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan) and other Taliban top leadership. They have to decide the future of the U.S. soldier, but we would not mind a prisoner exchange in this case,” the commander told CBS News.

Paktika province sits along Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan. The kidnapping comes just as some 4,000 U.S. Marines begin a massive offensive operation in the southern Helmand province to clear the Taliban stronghold of militants.

The military was largely silent about details surrounding the kidnapping, believed the first such abduction of a U.S. service member in the nearly eight-year-old war.

But CBS News has learned that not long after the soldier disappeared, U.S. intelligence picked up radio chatter that he had been kidnapped. U.S. officials know he’s already been sold to another group of Afghans – but no direct contact has been made with the kidnappers.

“We are not providing further details to protect the soldier’s well-being,” said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a spokeswoman in Afghanistan. Officials would not release his name, rank or other details.

“We understand him to have been captured by militant forces,” Mathias said. “We have all available resources out there looking for him and hopefully providing for his safe return.”

According to information on, the U.S. military operates a Forward Operating Base in Paktika called Orgun-E, which “dramatically expanded in size” in recent years.

Prior to the expansion, the base was home to about 400 U.S. soldiers in 2003, according to Orgun-E is said to be one of about a half-dozen such Forward Operating Bases maintained by the U.S. military along Afghanistan’s mountainous eastern border with Pakistan.

A senior Taliban commander later publicly claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in statements to other media. CBS News’ Khaled Wassef reports that the commander, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, is known to be affiliated with the group’s commander in Afghanistan, Haqqani. Zadran is thought to be in charge of Paktika province.

Wassef reports that Zadran was reportedly targeted in two U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas last month. Some reports released on June 24 suggested that he had been killed during a missile attack targeting a group of Taliban commanders, including the head of the group’s Pakistan branch Baitullah Mehsud, as they attended a funeral in South Waziristan.

Zardan denied reports of his death in the attack in telephone calls with a number of news agencies. He told Pakistani paper, The News, that he neither travelled to South Waziristan to attend the funeral nor suffered any harm. He added that he would soon issue a video statement to prove that he was safe.

No such video has been released thus far.

U.S. troops were brought in from nearby areas to help with the search for the missing solidier, which included helicopters, Afghan Army support and increased use of intelligence gathering resources, officials said.

The soldier was noticed missing during a routine check of the unit on Tuesday and was first listed as “duty status whereabouts unknown,” a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity.

Though he was missing, his body armor and weapon were found on the base, two officials said.

It wasn’t until Thursday that officials said publicly that he was missing and described him as “believed captured.” Details of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military as it works to retrieve a missing or captured soldier without giving away any information to captors.

Initial reports indicated that the soldier was off duty at the time he went missing, having just completed a shift, one of the officials said.

Two U.S. defense sources said the soldier “just walked off” post with three Afghans after he finished working. They said they had no explanation for why he left the base.

The missing man is an enlisted soldier serving in an Army infantry unit, and his family has been notified he is missing.

A number of civilians have been abducted in Afghanistan including aid workers and journalists – both foreigners and Afghans.

But the only other service member that officials could recall who had been captured was Petty Officer 1st class Neil C. Roberts, a 32-year-old Navy SEAL who was captured during a battle.

Roberts fell from a Chinook and was captured and killed by al Qaeda just months after the start of the war, in March 2002. Later, a second helicopter returned under fire and dropped troops near where Roberts fell. Six more Americans died in the fighting.

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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