* U.S. says “propaganda” video violates international law
* Soldier prompted by captors to call for withdrawal
(Adds new quotes)
By Peter Graff
KABUL, July 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. military denounced on Sunday the release of a video showing a soldier captured in Afghanistan, calling the images Taliban propaganda that violated international law.
The video shows the soldier in traditional Afghan dress, being prompted in English by his captors to call for U.S. forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. The military has confirmed that the man is the missing soldier, whose name has not been released.
“We condemn the use of this video and the public humiliation of prisoners. It is against international law,” U.S. military spokesman Colonel Greg Julian said. “We are doing everything we can to return this soldier to safety.”
The U.S. military has been distributing leaflets this week seeking the release of the soldier, missing since late June.
Military spokeswoman Captain Elizabeth Matthias said it was the first case she was aware of in which a U.S. service member was held captive by the enemy in Afghanistan, although there have been similar cases in Iraq.
In the video, portions of which were posted on the internet video sharing site YouTube (www.YouTube.com), the soldier appeared with his head shaven and a slight beard, wearing traditional grey, loose-fitting Afghan shalwar kameez clothing.
He appears to be in good health and is shown drinking tea and eating bread and rice.
“I am scared. I’m scared I won’t be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner,” he says. “I have my girlfriend who is hoping to marry. I have my grandma and grandpas. I have a very, very good family that I love back home in America.”
A voice off camera prompts: “Miss them.”
The soldier continues: “And I miss them every day that I’m gone. I miss them and I’m afraid that I might never see them again and that I’ll never be able to tell them that I love them again. I’ll never be able to hug them.”
Later, the voice prompts: “Any message to your people?”
“Yes. To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it’s like to miss them: you have the power to make our government bring them home,” the soldier says.
“Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here wasting our time and our lives and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country.”
Colonel Julian, the military spokesman, said Washington would not give in to the captors’ demands: “Basically they would like us to go home. That is just simply not going to happen. We are here to support the Afghan government to improve security and we will stay as long as the Afghan people want us here.”
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman reached by telephone at an undisclosed location, gave Reuters the address of another file sharing website displaying the video. He said the footage was proof of the captive’s health.
“He is fine and healthy as you saw in the video tape. We will decide in future as to what needs to be done with him.”
Mawlavi Sangin, a senior Taliban commander in Paktika province, the southeastern area where the soldier went missing, told Reuters on Thursday his men were holding the soldier and would kill him if the military applied pressure to find him.
Cases of U.S. troops going missing have been rare during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Iraq, three soldiers were captured by insurgents after a firefight in 2007 in an area south of Baghdad known as the triangle of death. One was killed shortly after his capture, while the other two were found dead nearly two months later.
In 2005, Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell was rescued after being cared for by Afghan villagers for five days. He was the only survivor of an ambushed four-man patrol. Sixteen special forces troops died when their helicopter was shot down in a failed initial rescue bid, the war’s deadliest incident for U.S. troops. (Additional reporting by Jonathon Burch in KABUL and Andrew Hammond in DUBAI; Editing by Paul Tait)