- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2014

In the wake of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s being transferred to U.S. custody after nearly five years of being held captive in Afghanistan, questions are being raised about the circumstances under which he left the battlefield in 2009 — with some of his fellow soldiers labeling him a deserter.

“I was pissed off then, and I am even more so now with everything going on,” former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009, told CNN. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”

Obama administration officials have declined since the news of Sgt. Bergdahl’s release broke on Saturday to address in detail the circumstances surrounding his departure, saying the focus should be on the good news of his release. He was captured under unknown circumstances in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, about two months after arriving in the country.

Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served in Sgt. Bergdahl’s unit, said in a piece for the Daily Beast that “Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”

He wrote that Sgt. Bergdahl deserves sympathy, but that he also must answer for what he did.

“Many have suffered because of his actions: his fellow soldiers, their families, his family, the Afghan military, the unaffiliated Afghan civilians in Paktika, and none of this suffering was inevitable,” he wrote. “None of it had to happen. Therefore, while I’m pleased that he’s safe, I believe there is an explanation due.”

SEE ALSO: Bergdahl release raises questions over security, congressional authority

U.S. officials secured the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, the last remaining prisoner of war in Afghanistan, by transferring five terrorism suspects from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba to Qatar.

“I don’t understand why we’re trading prisoners at Gitmo for somebody who deserted during a time of war, which is an act of treason,” former Sgt. Vierkant said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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