Western officials condemn Taliban video of captured U.S. soldier

The Western military on Thursday condemned a Taliban video that shows a captured U.S. soldier pleading for the release of Afghan detainees to help secure his own freedom.

Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, an Idaho native who was captured by insurgents 10 months ago in eastern Afghanistan, was last heard from at Christmas, when his captors released a video in which the young private declared that the American military effort in Afghanistan was doomed to failure.

“The continuing use of [Bergdahl] as a means of propaganda is a deplorable act, and only fuels our efforts to find him and bring him home,” said Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of Western forces in Afghanistan.

Bergdahl is the only U.S. service member known to have been captured by insurgents in the conflict. In the video, he appears to be in good health, but it could not be determined when the video was shot.

As North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces prepare for a large-scale offensive over the summer in the southern province of Kandahar, Afghan police reported the thwarting of what could have been a major insurgent attack in the capital, Kabul.

Police said they had arrested five people who were planning to blow themselves up in central Kabul. Over the last year, there have been several such multi-pronged attacks even in heavily fortified parts of the city.

Abdul Ghafar, deputy commander of a special police intelligence unit, said a disaster could have resulted if the vehicle carrying the five had not been stopped and searched early Thursday on the city’s outskirts.

Authorities said they suspected militants with the Pakistan-based Haqqani network orchestrated the attempted attack.