The reason Bowe Bergdahl’s recovery has become such a controversy is because of a climate of distrust the Obama administration has cultivated in light of a multitude of previous scandals, the clear effort to portray the Bergdahl story as a success when it is clearly not, and the US Military’s desperation to avoid embarrassment. The betrayal of multiple principles further stokes the coals of discontent and causes cognitive dissonance in people who hold those principles, values and beliefs. If we don’t enforce and protect those ideas and expectations it would imply they are of no value. Let’s take a few minutes to examine several of the issues surrounding the Bergdahl situation.
There is little doubt that PFC Bergdahl deserted on June 30, 2009. There was no patrol on which he fell back, as he claimed in a video. Later reports from Afghans stated that Bergdahl asked where he could find the Taliban. Daily firsthand accounts by troops who were present and served with Bergdahl fill in the gaps of the ongoing investigation. The classified 2010 15-6 investigation is said to contain “incontrovertible” evidence that Bergdahl deserted.
What is open source is the superhuman effort by our forces in theatre to recover him. Forces were surged into the area to keep the Taliban from moving Bergdahl to Pakistan. At least six Americans were killed conducting operations to find Bergdahl. The Combat Outpost (COP) at Camp Keating had aircraft that were dedicated to shutting the COP down, but which were instead retasked to support the effort to find Bergdahl, delaying its planned closure. The COP was attacked by hundreds of Taliban. Eight Americans were killed and 27 wounded in a battle so fierce that two Medals of Honor were awarded (Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha and Staff Sgt. Ty Carter), something that had not happened since Mogadishu.
Last Saturday, Sergeant Bergdahl was traded for five high-level Taliban operatives held at Gitmo. This was the culmination of years of attempts to secure Bergdahl’s release. One of the first issues of contention over Bergdahl’s release was conflicting characterizations of the event as “negotiating with terrorists” vs. a “prisoner transfer.” Technically, it’s both, but there is substantial hyperbole on each side.