Just two days after the news that Bowe Bergdahl will face a general court martial before the Army, the highly-anticipated second episode of the Serial podcast was released online early Thursday morning. Listeners were left with one helluva cliffhanger at the end of the first episode of Serial's second season as host Sarah Koenig teased: "That's me, calling the Taliban." So, just how did Sarah Koenig talk to the Taliban? This week's podcast definitely did not disappoint and dove right into the Taliban's version of events.
As outlined in the first episode, Koenig is collaborating with filmmaker Mark Boal for the second season of Serial as well as media company Page 1. This collaboration grants Koenig access to hundreds of hours of recorded interviews Boal conducted with Bergdahl, as well as to additional research and sources. For episode two, Koenig outlines exactly how she got herself a phone call with the Taliban: through Sami Yousafzai, an Afghan-born journalist who writes for Newsweek. Yousafzai was hired by Page 1 to interview anyone and everyone he could and report his findings. Astonishingly, Yousafzai managed to contact and conduct interviews with around a half dozen people who were involved in Bergdahl's capture.
One of these people was Mujahid Rahman (not his real name), a Taliban fighter closely involved with Bergdahl's capture. Through Yousafzai's connections and sources, Koenig speaks to Rahman through an interpreter. But speaking to a member of the Taliban isn't that simple. Koenig calls Rahman on his burner phone as he sits in a moving car in a safe part of his neighborhood in Afghanistan.
Rahman gave his account of how Taliban fighters were first made aware of this lone American found wandering out in the open. Despite the very real danger that Bergdahl faced of being killed at literally any moment, Rahman said, Bergdahl was considered a "guest" of the fighters as opposed to strictly being regarded as a prisoner. Pashtun hospitality may have saved his life. In Pashtun culture, guests are treated with considerable honor and respect. By calling Bergdahl his guest, Rahman made it clear to his subordinates that Bergdahl was to be treated humanely and not beaten or killed as a result, according to the episode.
The rest of the episode dives deep into the Taliban's version of events as well as the unprecendented scale of the search and recovery operations that went into effect just hours after Bergdahl was reported missing. It's a gripping and at times baffling listen — the perfect length for your Thursday morning commute.
Serial is available for download and streaming online every Thursday at 6 a.m.