The explosive narrative of the life, captivity, and trial of Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who was abducted by the Taliban and whose story has served as a symbol for America's foundering war in Afghanistan
On June 30, 2009, Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl left his post in eastern Afghanistan, about 25 miles from the Pakistani border. He was quickly captured by local tribesmen, who sold him up the Taliban's chain of command.
In May 2014, after almost five years in captivity - the longest-held and most brutalised Prisoner of War since Vietnam - he was released. His freedom was exchanged for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was welcomed home by President Obama in a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Within hours, however, some of Bergdahl's former platoon mates were denouncing him as a deserter, even a traitor. Bergdahl admits walking away from his guard post of his own volition. But what is the truth: is Bowe Bergdahl a traitor or a hero? Or does the truth lie somewhere in-between, shrouded by the fog of war?
Bowe Bergdahl's story has risen to international prominence since becoming the subject of the current series of the hit podcast SERIAL. But now, and for the first time, AMERICAN CIPHER, written with exclusive access to key sources, will tell the full compelling, dramatic and shocking true story.
Compelling ... In American Cipher the specific facts of Bergdahl's case are elevated to the allegorical, and this is where Farwell and Ames's storytelling really shines ... Farwell and Ames convincingly show that so many of the reasons we've been fighting in Afghanistan for 18 years - bureaucratic inertia, partisan dysfunction, domestic indifference - are the same reasons that, even when Bergdahl's captors eagerly hoped to broker his release, it took so long to recover him - Washington Post
A riveting journalistic account of Bowe Bergdahl's disastrous - and weirdly poignant - choice to walk off his military base in Afghanistan ... A spectacularly good book about an incredibly painful and important topic - author of Tribe and War
Matt Farwell and Michael Ames have written a vitally important book. As an account of Bowe Bergdahl's captivity and eventual release, American Cipher is compelling. Yet it's the backstory that really matters: The crippling dysfunction that permeates the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, beginning in the combat zone and extending all the way back to Washington - author of Twilight of the American Century
This excellent book is a cautionary tale about what happens when a confused and misguided young soldier is sent off to fight for an equally confused and misguided foreign policy - author of Matterhorn
Bowe Bergdahl's story should be required reading for all Americans, illuminating as it does so many aspects of an ill-conceived conflict. American Cipher shines a cold, clear light not just on an unending war, but also on the society that pays for it in countless ways. A fascinating book - author of Kill Chain
Matt Farwell and Michael Ames brilliantly reconstruct Bowe Bergdahl's journey and provide a damning portrait of America's role in Afghanistan, revealing the larger truth of why the U.S. has failed and why the war means unending tragedy for the Afghan people. American Cipher is haunting and moving, a deeply human study of an inhuman conflict. It is one of the most important books I've read about the Afghan war
- author of No Good Men Among the Living
After his capture by Islamic terrorists, during five years of imprisonment at undisclosed locations across the border of Pakistan, every moment in Bowe Bergdahl's existence became fodder for controversy at an international level. The authors present compelling, convincing evidence that addresses each specific controversial element ... An unsettling and riveting book filled with the mysteries of human nature