A former Army Green Beret has been charged with murder and conspiracy for killing an alleged Taliban bomb-making suspect. The bomber had allegedly planted an IED that killed two U.S. Marines that were fighting with the Green Berets in the Afghan town of Marjah. Reportedly Major Mark Golsteyn and another soldier shot and killed the suspected bomber and then destroyed his remains.
This case, which happened in 2010 has been dragging on for nine years. The US Army Special Operations Command spokesman Loren Bymer said that on Friday that “sufficient evidence exists” to warrant charges against Golsteyn. Originally this story came to light in a polygraph interview that Golsteyn did with CIA officials as part of a job interview.
“Major Golsteyn is being charged with the murder of an Afghan male during his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan,” Bymer put out in a statement.
According to Army Times, Bymer stated that Golsteyn has been recalled to active duty and is under the command of the USASOC headquarters company. An intermediary commander will review the warrant of preferred charges to determine if the major will face an Article 32 hearing that could lead to a court-martial.
That commander has 120 days to make that decision.
Golsteyn had been placed on voluntary excess leave, an administrative status for soldiers pending lengthy administrative proceedings, Bymer said. He is not being confined at this time.
“I think he’s been betrayed,” his attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, told Fox News on Friday after he was interviewed on his client’s actions. Golsteyn is facing the death penalty if convicted of murder in this case.
Golsteyn, a captain at the time, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 with 3rd Special Forces Group. During the intense Battle of Marja, an IED planted on a booby-trapped door killed two Marines and wounded three others who were working with the 3rd SFG ODA-3121.
For his actions during the deployment, Golsteyn earned a Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor. Later, an upgrade for his medal was approved but never given for a Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor just beneath the Medal of Honor.
However, due to his CIA polygraph where he admitted killing the Taliban bomber, CIA officials turned the results over to Army CID (Criminal Investigation Command). Although the resultant Board of Inquiry resulted in no charges filed against Golsteyn, it was ordered that he be stripped of his Silver Star and his Special Forces tab, given to Green Berets at the end of their training. It further ordered that he be given a General Discharge under Honorable Conditions.
The Board of Inquiry found no evidence that Golsteyn committed no Law of Armed Conflict violation, they found him to culpable of Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer.
While investigating the bombing in the Marjah marketplace, Golsteyn and his men found bomb-making materials nearby. Local tribal leaders brought in a tied up suspect that they identified as the Taliban IED bomber. Without enough evidence to hold the suspect much longer, Golsteyn told the polygraph examiners that he feared that the Taliban would take retribution against the tribal leaders and their families who were seen to be working with the Americans.
They made the decision to eliminate the Taliban. They took him off base, shot and killed him and then burned his body in a pit where the U.S. destroyed classified documents. His remains have never been found.
Then during a November 2016 and interview with Fox News, Golsteyn again admitted that he had killed the Taliban bomber, who had been captured by American troops, found with bomb-making material and then released.
“There are limits on how long you can hold guys,” he told Fox News for a news special that they produced on the war and our troops.
“You realize quickly that you make things worse. It is an inevitable outcome that people who are cooperating with coalition forces, when identified, will suffer some terrible torture or be killed.”
Asked if he killed the man, Golsteyn said, “Yes.”
That interview can be seen here:
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That prompted the Army to open its second CID investigation into Golsteyn.
CID offered immunity to two SF soldiers to testify against Golsteyn but they refused to talk.
The two Marines Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary and Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson, who had been working with Golsteyn’s A-Team are the forgotten ones in this case.
But the parents of one of the slain Marines believe the charges ludicrous.
“I think that’s crazy,” said David Kleinschmidt, stepfather of victim Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary.
“I don’t understand why they are bringing this up again,” Kleinschmidt told the New York Post on Friday.
“We were in a war — and things happen in war,” he added, “personally, I think they should just drop [the charges] … I’m glad the guy is dead.” McQueary’s mom said her heart goes out to the family of the former Green Beret. “I’m sure his family has to be stressed out beyond belief,” the mom said of Golsteyn.
“And my heart goes out to them.”
Ashley Johnson, the sister of killed Marine Larry Johnson was also, not surprisingly on the side of Golsteyn. “He, from what I read, is a hero and did what he had to do. I believe at a time like that, you wear your heart on your sleeve and I think it’s what anyone with a heart would do,” she said.
While soldiers who worked with Golsteyn told Army Investigators that they doubted that the Captain would kill an unarmed insurgent, it seems he wasn’t popular with senior officers in his chain of command.
“I have a hard time believing that such an incident ever occurred,” a senior medic in his unit told CID in December 2011. “I further find it hard to believe that Matt Golsteyn would do that. The only reason I could possibly conceive him doing something like that is if he felt his men’s lives were at direct risk.”
But a Lieutenant Colonel in Golsteyn’s chain of command differed and told CID that often Golsteyn was insubordinate and would act with a sense of impunity. According to CID, this LTC stated when asked by investigators if he believed Golsteyn capable of murder, he essentially threw him under the bus. “I would hope not, the colonel stated but “would not doubt it either because of the captain’s attitude,” the investigator wrote.
When the Marines returned from the mission that their comrades were killed and wounded, Golsteyn was there as they reentered the compound. He produced a bottle of whiskey (which is forbidden in a combat zone) and toasted the fallen Marines. That small act went a long way with bringing the SF men and Marines closer but infuriated Army brass for drinking alcohol in a war zone. The fact that the Army was more concerned with a toast to killed Marines rather than removing a Taliban bomber speaks volumes to several Special Forces veterans.
Golsteyn has at least one member of Congress on his side, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter Jr. (R.Calif.), a Marine veteran and frequent critic of the Army secretary.
“Major Matt Golsteyn is an American hero, and his experience calls to attention another hero, retired General James Mattis and something he said: ‘There are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.’ I know you agree that a known Afghan bomb-maker with the blood of American service members on his hands fits into that category,” the congressman wrote to Army Secretary Eric Fanning and Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff.
Hunter said: “Golsteyn is an American hero — a true warrior, in fact. Why the Army is hell-bent on destroying a combat hero’s career is truly astonishing. I’m confident that Army CID has more important things to [do] than investigate Golsteyn again, and you both have the ability to fix this stupidity.”
In a handwritten note, the former Marine said, “Gentlemen, come on! This is a joke. I’m sure you have more important stuff to do. This is getting old.”
This brings to mind a case of similar circumstances back in Vietnam that was known as the “Green Beret Affair” where a suspected Vietnamese double-agent who was responsible for the death of several agents was killed and dumped into the ocean.
And now President Trump says he’ll review the case, “At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder. He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas,” Trump said on Twitter.
This will likely make this case a politicized event …for better or worse.