Afghan villagers near where Bowe Bergdahl disappeared from his Army unit on June 30, 2009, recounted their interaction with the missing private, saying that he headed towards a Taliban stronghold despite their warnings.
One of the villagers also said that he hoped that the five Taliban exchanged for Bergdahl could be re-captured.
Where Bergdahl went after his disappearance has generated debate since that exchange, which occurred Saturday.
Bergdahl had been held for nearly five years after disappearing in Poptika, in eastern Afghanistan.
The Washington Post contacted several villagers who claimed they saw Bergdahl shortly after that disappearance.
“It was very confusing to us. Why would he leave the base?” said a man named Jamal, an elder in a village less than a mile from the American military installation, according to the Washington Post. “The people thought it was a covert agenda – maybe he was sent to the village by the U.S.”
Some villagers warned Bergdahl against heading towards a well-known Taliban stronghold, the Post reports.
“They tried to tell him not to go there, that it is dangerous. But he kept going over the mountain. The villagers tried to give him water and bread, but he didn’t take it,” said a district intelligence chief named Ibrahim Manikhel, according to the Post.
Manikhel said he thought that Bergdahl had been smoking hashish and wondered, “Why would an American want to find the Taliban?”
He also put into context the men the U.S. released in exchange for Bergdahl, who hails from Idaho.
“I had forgotten about that abducted American,” Manikhel said, according to the Post. “I hope the U.S. can re-arrest the Talibs that they released.”
The U.S. had been holding the five Taliban commanders in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They are considered some of the most dangerous leaders in the organization.
Some of the soldiers who served with Bergdahl before he disappeared have come out in recent days to criticize him. They have called him a deserter because they say Bergdahl left his unit on purpose. Bergdahl has claimed that he was abducted after falling behind his platoon.
The Obama administration has drawn criticism for the exchange as well. Some members of Congress believe Obama broke the law by failing to give them the proper notification before the transfer.