Did Bergdahl Desert in Afghanistan? Questions Remain for Families of Slain Soldiers


Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 01:56 a.m. DST, 6 June 2014

"Dirt Devils" Photo by: Marines

THE NEGOTIATIONS that freed prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban insurgents are continuing to amass criticism as more and more controversial information about Bergdahl and the deal surface.

While Republicans originally condemned the bargaining agreement because Congress was not notified about the release of Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay detention center, and because the government in effect negotiated with terror groups during the settlement, the disapproval is becoming increasingly bipartisan, and is starting to include more voices from Bergdahl's past.

New insight from Bergdahl's unit have been particularly troubling for the image of the liberated soldier. Gerald Sutton, for instance, was a close friend and comrade of Bergdahl and unequivocally states that his fellow soldier was a deserter. Many in Bergdahl's platoon have made similar remarks, and auxiliary evidence supports many of their claims.

Before leaving his post in Paktika, Afghanistan, Bergdahl mailed his personal belongings, including his laptop, to his parents in Idaho. In the months leading up to this shipment, Bergdahl used his laptop to email his parents and explain his frustration with American involvement in the region, and stated that he was ashamed to be an American.

Also noteworthy, a military investigation written in the months after Bergdahl went missing indicate that the young soldier has run away from duty in the past. Once during training, Bergdahl left his exercises in California and later returned. In an incident unrelated to his capture, Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan and reappeared soon after. Why serious action was not taken after either of these incidents is unknown.

Claims that six men died trying to locate their comrade are cause for anger, but the proof is somewhat dubious. Six men died in the Paktika in the months after Bergdahl's disappearance, but whether or not these men died directly searching for their fellow American is unclear. Some members of the platoon say yes, while other intelligence cites a rise in regional violence as the root of the six fatalities. Still, it is likely that at least some of the deaths are directly related to the search for Bergdahl.

Two things are true as this saga unfolds. As a United States soldier in harm's way, the government was right to pursue Bergdahl's release, although the conditions of the trade are questionable. One national for five is an exploitation of the high value that America holds for each service member.

And also, like all Americans, Bergdahl should be regarded innocent until proven otherwise, no matter how damning the evidence.

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