WASHINGTON – The photo of a smiling Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl posted to a Twitter account by a Taliban sympathizer is being dismissed by the Pentagon as "100% propaganda."
Bergdahl was "held up in brutal conditions for a half a decade," said Col. Steve Warren, a military spokesman. "We're glad that he is back."
NBC News reported that a Taliban official said the photo was released by a Twitter account belonging to a Taliban sympathizer.
Bergdahl, the Army soldier who was held captive for five years by the Taliban after leaving his base in Afghanistan, is seen with a smile standing beside a Taliban commander who has his arm around Bergdahl's shoulder. The photo could not be authenticated as depicting an actual scene that was not manipulated.
The Pentagon pointed out that Bergdahl was held captive by a ruthless enemy and would have no way of preventing the Taliban from staging photographs.
The commander with Bergdahl appears to be Badruddin Haqqani, a Taliban leader who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in 2012.
The photo may add fuel to the debate surrounding the circumstances surrounding the capture of Bergdahl and the subsequent agreement that led to his release.
His freedom was granted by the Taliban in exchange for the release of five militants held by the United States at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar under supervision by the government there. Bergdahl was released on May 31.
The Army is investigating the circumstances of Bergdahl's captured in 2009. Soldiers who served with him claim he walked off the post without authorization.
Bergdahl, 28, is receiving medical and psychological treatment at a military post in San Antonio, Texas, as part of his reintegration process and has not spoken publicly about his time in captivity or how he was captured.