Miranshah (Pakistan) (AFP) – Freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl developed a love for Afghan green tea, taught his captors badminton, and even celebrated Christmas and Easter with the hardline Islamists, a Pakistani militant commander told AFP Sunday.

Bergdahl, the only US soldier detained in Afghanistan since war began in 2001, was released Saturday in exchange for the freeing of five senior Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay, in a dramatic deal brokered by Qatar.

The army sergeant’s almost five years in captivity saw him transferred between various militant factions along the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan border, finally ending up in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district, according to militant sources.

A commander of the Haqqani network, a militant outfit allied with the Taliban with ties to Al-Qaeda, on Sunday painted a picture of a man who adjusted to his new life by engaging with his captors while clinging to aspects of his own identity.

“He was fond of kawa (Afghan green tea). He drank a lot of kawa all day, which he mostly prepared himself,” the commander told AFP by phone from an undisclosed location in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Over time, Bergdahl, now 28, grew fluent in Pashto and Dari, he said.

Unlike the militants, who were mainly ethnic Pashtuns known for their voracious appetite for meat, Bergdahl “liked vegetables and asked for meat only once or twice a week”, the commander said.

While the militants attempted to teach the soldier about Islam and provided him with religious books, he preferred more earthly pursuits.

“He would spend more time playing badminton or helping with cooking,” the militant chief said.

“He loved badminton and always played badminton with his handlers. In fact, he taught many fighters about the game,” he added.

And the Idaho native made a point of celebrating the Christian festivals he was accustomed to back home, even inviting his captors to participate.

“He never missed his religious festivals. He used to tell his handlers they were coming up weeks before Christmas and Easter and celebrated it with them,” he said.

Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst, said the militants would have regarded Bergdahl as a high-value asset and harming him would have had a negative impact on their propaganda efforts… see more

source: yahoo news