While the White House celebrates the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a number of people in the military community continue to voice their concerns with the prisoner exchange that led to his release.
A Pentagon official told the Associated Press today that there is “incontrovertible” evidence that Bergdahl willingly walked away from his unit prior to his capture in June of 2009.
The official cited a 2010 investigation in which Pentagon intelligence officials concluded Bergdahl walked away from his post unarmed into the Paktika province of Afghanistan where he was later arrested by Taliban members. Members of Sgt. Bergdahl’s unit called him a “delusional” person who thought he could help the Afghan people by leaving his post.
Officials found that on the night he left his post, Bergdahl left a note in his tent saying that he was disillusioned with the U.S. Army, he didn’t agree with America’s mission in Aghanistan, and he was leaving to start a new life.
The discovery that Bergdahl purposefully ditched his unit is part of the reason U.S. officials were less aggressive in pursuing his release over the last five years.
President Obama spoke on these concerns earlier today at a press conference in Warsaw, Poland.
"Regardless of circumstances ... we still get an American prisoner back," President Obama said. “Period, full stop -- we don't condition that. We saw an opportunity. We were concerned about Sgt. Bergdahl’s health.”
Bergdahl was the sole remaining prisoner of war in Afghanistan. President Obama said that as the U.S. ceases military activity in the region, accounting for any remaining prisoners of war is a part of the process.
“This is what happens at the end of wars,” he said.
Members of Bergdahl’s unit say they hope he is held accountable for the 90 days of relentless searching they carried out on his behalf.
“Yes, I’m angry,” said Joshua Cornelison, a medic in Bergdahl’s unit. “Everything that we did in those days was to advance the search for Bergdahl. If we were doing some mission and there was a reliable report that Bergdahl was somewhere, our orders were that we were to quit that mission and follow that report.
“I won’t get into the politics, but now that he’s back he needs to be held 100 percent accountable,” he said. “For putting myself and 29 other people in my platoon in hell for 90 days.”
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John F. Kirby stands with President Obama in supporting Bergdahl’s release. He says that regardless of the details surrounding Bergdahl’s capture, the principle remains the same: the United States does not leave soldiers behind.
“When you’re in the Navy, and you go overboard, it doesn’t matter if you were pushed, fell or jumped,” he said. “We’re going to turn the ship around and pick you up.”