The Obama administration mishandled the process of retrieving Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban after allegedly deserting his comrades at an outpost in Afghanistan, according to a former member of the captured soldier’s unit and the father of a soldier who died during initial searches for the sergeant in 2009.
A congressional hearing Wednesday on the controversial five-for-one U.S.-Taliban prisoner swap the Obama White House pursued last month to secure Sgt. Bergdahl’s release offered a fresh glimpse into the sergeant’s mysterious case.
Recent weeks saw the White House attempt to paint the 28-year-old sergeant as a prize military recovery, returned to the United States in exchange for five former high-level Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay — a fact that has ruffled the feathers of those who feel they have been betrayed by a fellow soldier and their government.
Mike Waltz, a senior national security fellow for New America Foundation who commanded a U.S. Special Forces company in eastern Afghanistan when Sgt. Bergdahl went missing, said the administration handled the return of the wayward soldier inappropriately.
Had there been a quiet family meeting upon Sgt. Bergdahl’s return then perhaps the situation would have been embraced differently, said Mr. Waltz.
Now the case is a study for how to use a soldier as a strategic bargaining tool, he told lawmakers holding the joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittees on the Middle East and North Africa and terrorism, nonproliferation, and trade.
“I am confident in saying that Sgt. Bergdahl endangered the lives of the thousands of men and women sent to search for him,” Mr. Waltz said.
Retired Sgt. Cody H. Full, who served with Sgt. Bergdahl in Blackfoot Company, second platoon, said he believes Sgt. Bergdahl planned his disappearance and should face a slew of charges including desertion, willfully disobeying his superior officer, misbehavior before the enemy and misconduct as prisoner.
“If Bergdahl hadn’t deserted us, then he would have never been held in captivity,” he said.
In addition, the Pentagon should make public the initial details it collected while searching for Sgt. Bergdahl in 2009, according to Mr. Full.
“Americans need to also see the original investigation on Bergdahl’s desertion,” he said. “You should not be able to desert your fellow Americans without consequences. Bowe Bergdahl should not be characterized as having served with honor and distinction.”
Andy Andrews, the father of 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, who died in Afghanistan while the U.S. military was searching for Sgt. Bergdahl, told The Washington Times that he had little faith in the Obama administration’s ability to shed light on the sergeant’s history.
The two-star general tasked with overseeing the investigation has to be aware of the politics tied to the outcome of his research, according to Mr. Andrews. The truth, he said, is not likely to be forthcoming.
“This is America. I’d be real surprised,” he said. “Everything gets sort of gets slanted and spun and spun a bit more.”