Bowe Bergdahl tried in vain to escape his Taliban captors, US officials tell the New York Times, and as punishment, he says "they kept him in a shark cage in total darkness for weeks, possibly months," says one official; that's a drastically different scenario than the Taliban painted just yesterday. Officials say that Bergdahl's physical health is relatively sound—skin and gum conditions associated with lack of hygiene aside—but that mentally he's not yet ready to face a reunion with his family, much less the brouhaha surrounding his release. "Physically, he could be put on a plane to the US tomorrow, but there are still a couple of mental criteria to address: the family unification piece and the media exposure piece," says a US official.
"It’s safe to assume" that Bergdahl was "held in harsh conditions," a Pentagon official says. "These are Taliban, not wet nurses." Though Bergdahl shows "signs of improvement," there's still no timetable for when he might return to the US; he would next head for an Army evaluation at a medical center in Texas, notes the Times. Interestingly, Bergdahl objects to being called sergeant. "He says, 'Don’t call me that,' " said one American official. " 'I didn’t go before the boards. I didn’t earn it.' " Meanwhile, Bergdahl's family is getting threats, the FBI confirms, saying that it's "taking each threat seriously." And in a separate piece, the Times delves into the "ragtag" unit to which Bergdahl was assigned, and its troubled history. (Read more Bowe Bergdahl stories.)