Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who voluntarily left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 before being taken captive by the Taliban, is expected to plead guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior later this month. He will potentially face a dishonorable discharge from the Army, as well as up to five years for desertion, and anything up to and including a life sentence for misbehavior.
Bergdahl was in Taliban custody for nearly five years, where he reportedly suffered torture and mistreatment, prompting many in the United States to empathize with the soldier who was returned to the U.S. soil thanks to a prisoner exchange executed by the Obama Administration. In return for Bergdahl, President Obama released five high-level Taliban operatives that had been held in Guantanamo Bay.
SOFREP’s own investigation into the matter, however, revealed that, despite Bergdahl’s mistreatment at the hands of the Taliban, it was Bergdahl that actually sought out the extremist group upon his desertion. In an interview with SOFREP editor-in-chief Jack Murphy, Joshua Cornelison, the medic in Bergdahl’s unit, 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, explained that Bergdahl definitely left his platoon’s forward operating base under his own volition.
Bergdahl had reportedly asked a number of questions as he planned his desertion, including what would happen if his night vision goggles and weapon were to go missing. He also appeared to have planned his departure to coincide with a rotation of the guards standing post, so as to improve his chances of evading detection. Main stream media outlets would later report that Bergdahl had approached locals in Afghanistan, asking if they knew where he could find the Taliban.
In the months that followed, a number of operations would be launched to try to find the missing soldier, many of them by his own unit, resulting in six members of 2nd platoon dying. Many more soldiers were injured or killed in the effort outside of his old command, however, largely from the 75th Ranger Regiment, who continued to conduct operations in the area in hopes of recovering Bergdahl throughout his five years in Taliban custody. It’s hard to know for sure just how much blood was shed, or how many soldiers died, because of Bergdahl’s actions. In the interest of full disclosure, the Pentagon’s stance on the subject is that Bergdahl is not to blame for those deaths, as they cannot be directly tied to the soldier’s actions.
Although President Obama authorized the deal that brought Bergdahl back to the United States, he stopped short of granting the soldier a pardon when it was requested of him before the end of his term. Obama, who received a great deal of criticism for the Bergdahl prisoner exchange as well as his decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years for releasing state secrets to Wikileaks, chose to allow the court systems to decide Bergdahl’s fate.
“We continue to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused, and ensuring the case’s fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case,” Army spokesman Paul Boyce said in a written statement.
Bergdahl’s attorney declined to comment on the report that he will plead guilty, but it seems likely that Bergdahl hopes such a decision would be met with mercy, particularly as President Trump has made it clear that he shouldn’t expect a pardon or commuted sentence like Obama granted Manning.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press