Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday the Army may still pursue an investigation into the conduct of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was recently freed after nearly five years of being held captive in Afghanistan.
Gen. Dempsey told The Associated Press that U.S. military leaders “have been accused of looking away from misconduct” but said “it’s premature” to assume they would do so in Sgt. Bergdahl’s case.
Sgt. Bergdahl was recently freed from nearly five years of being held in captivity by the Taliban in Afghanistan in exchange for the transfer of five former Guantanamo Bay prison detainees to Qatar.
Some of Sgt. Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers have in recent days said he essentially abandoned his post in 2009 when he was taken captive by the Taliban. The Washington Times also reported Monday that the Pentagon on multiple occasions knew where Sgt. Bergdahl was being held but commanders scrapped rescue missions because they were unwilling to risk casualties for a man they believed to be a “deserter,” according to sources familiar with the plan.
In defending the administration’s actions Tuesday, President Obama said the top priority right now is to care for Sgt. Bergdahl.
“With respect to the circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban, we obviously have not been interrogating Sgt. Bergdahl,” Mr. Obama said. “He has been recovering from five years of captivity with the Taliban. He’s having to undergo a whole battery of tests and he is going to have to undergo a significant transition back into life. He has not even met with his family yet, which indicates I think the degree to which we take this transition process seriously.”
Mr. Dempsey, in a separate statement distributed to the media, said Sgt. Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty and that the Army will get the facts when Sgt. Bergdahl is able to provide them and in the meantime they will continue to care for him and his family.
“[T]he questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity,” he said. “This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him.”