Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer recently reported on Fox News that Bowe Bergdahl would be charged with desertion by the U.S. military. The saga of America’s only POW held in Afghanistan is a long and complicated one and recent revelations about his legal status under the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice is something which has been investigated and discussed behind closed doors since his release by the Taliban.
In a SOFREP’s own investigation we spoke to Joshua Cornelison, the medic in Bergdahl’s unit, 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. Cornelison informed us that Bergdahl left his platoon’s Forward Operating Base under his own volition. In retrospect, his erratic behavior revealed that he had long planned to desert his unit according to another soldier in his Squad. These actions including mailing his personal effects back home, asking his NCO’s what would happen if night vision goggles or his weapon went missing. Bergdahl is also reported to have planned his desertion to coincide with a rotation in guard shifts, giving himself a window of opportunity to escape into the Afghan countryside.
Rear Admiral John Kirby refuted Shaffer’s claim that Bergdahl would be charged with desertion, saying that no decision had been made on the matter. However, with NBC’s Brian Williams also reported that Bergdahl would be charged with desertion it seems clear that certain information is leaking out of the Pentagon to the press, ahead of an official announcement. The Pentagon would no doubt like to make the announcement in a manner which games the media cycle, holding a press conference prior to a holiday and hoping that the news would quickly be forgotten and overwhelmed by other events in the news.
If it turns out that five Guantanamo inmates were set free to secure the release of a deserter it would be a PR disaster for the White House.
The desertion charge would carry with it penalties against Bergdahl to include a loss of all backpay the military owes him for his time as a POW and being stripped of VA benefits. The jury is still literally out on whether or not Bergdahl will actually be charged, but curious onlookers should watch for an official announcement just before the next federal holiday.