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U.S. concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl walked away

By Ken Dilanian & Deb Riechmann

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 11:12 a.m. HST, Jun 02, 2014


WASHINGTON >> A Pentagon investigation concluded in 2010 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his unit, and after an initial flurry of searching the military decided not to exert extraordinary efforts to rescue him, according to a former senior defense official who was involved in the matter.

Instead, the U.S. government pursued negotiations to get him back over the following five years of his captivity -- a track that led to his release over the weekend.

Bergdahl was being checked and treated Monday at a U.S. military hospital in Germany as questions mounted at home over the swap that resulted in his freedom in exchange for the release of five detainees who were sent to Qatar from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, Cuba.

Even in the first hours of Bergdahl's handoff to U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan, it was clear this would not be an uncomplicated yellow-ribbon celebration. Five terrorist suspects also walked free, stirring a debate over whether the exchange would heighten the risk of other Americans being snatched as bargaining chips and whether the released detainees -- several senior Taliban figures among them -- would find their way back to the fight.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Bergdahl's health and safety appeared in jeopardy, prompting rapid action. "Had we waited and lost him," said national security adviser Susan Rice, "I don't think anybody would have forgiven the United States government." She said he had lost considerable weight and faced an "acute" situation. Yet she also said he appeared to be "in good physical condition."

One official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to discuss the subject by name, said there were concerns about Bergdahl's mental and emotional as well as physical health.

On Monday, a U.S. military hospital in Germany reported Bergdahl in "stable condition and receiving treatment for conditions requiring hospitalization" after arriving from Afghanistan. The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center said Bergdahl's treatment "includes attention to dietary and nutrition needs after almost five years in captivity" but declined to release further details. It said there "is no pre-determined amount of time involved in the reintegration process" for the 28-year-old soldier.

Two officials said Monday that the Taliban may have been concerned about his health, as well, since the U.S. had sent the message that it would respond harshly if any harm befell him in captivity.

Republicans in the U.S. said the deal for Bergdahl's release could set a troubling precedent. Arizona Sen. John McCain said of the Guantanamo detainees who were exchanged for him: "These are the hardest of the hard core."

And in Kabul Monday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry called the swap "against the norms of international law" if it came against the five imprisoned Taliban detainees' will. The ministry said: "No state can transfer another country's citizen to a third country and put restriction on their freedom."

Tireless campaigners for their son's freedom, Bob and Jani Bergdahl thanked all who were behind the effort to retrieve him. "You were not left behind," Bob Bergdahl told reporters, as if speaking to his son. "We are so proud of the way this was carried out." He spoke in Boise, Idaho, wearing a long bushy beard he'd grown to honor his son, as residents in the sergeant's hometown of Hailey prepared for a homecoming celebration.

The five detainees left Guantanamo aboard a U.S. military aircraft flying to Qatar, which served as go-between in the negotiations. They are to be banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year. Among the five: a Taliban deputy intelligence minister, a former Taliban interior minister with ties to the late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and a figure linked by human rights monitors to mass killings of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.

Questions persisted, too, about the circumstances of Bergdahl's 2009 capture. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment on earlier reports that the sergeant had walked away from his unit, disillusioned with the war. Such matters "will be dealt with later," Hagel said.

But the former Pentagon official said it was "incontrovertible" that he walked away from his unit.

The military investigation was broader than a criminal inquiry, this official said, and it didn't formally accuse Bergdahl of desertion. In interviews, members of his unit portrayed him as a naive, "delusional" person who thought he could help the Afghan people by leaving his army post, the official said.

U.S. military and intelligence agencies had made every effort to monitor Bergdahl's location and his health, the official said, through both signals intelligence and a network of spies.

Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served as an officer in Bergdahl's unit, said in an article Monday on the Daily Beast website that Bergdahl was not on patrol, as some reports have suggested.

"There was no patrol that night," he wrote. "Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I've talked to members of Bergdahl's platoon_including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I've reviewed the relevant documents. That's what happened."

Hagel, visiting troops in Afghanistan, was met with silence when he told a group of them in a Bagram Air Field hangar: "This is a happy day. We got one of our own back."

At the White House on Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said the exchange "was absolutely the right thing to do." in much the same tone as the president over the weekend, he said: "The United States does not leave our men and women behind in conflict."

"In a situation like this, you have a prisoner of war, a uniformed military person that was detained," Carney said.

In weighing the swap, U.S. officials decided that it could help the effort to reach reconciliation with the Taliban, which the U.S. sees as key to more security in Afghanistan. But they acknowledged the risk that the deal would embolden insurgents.

Republicans pressed that point. "Have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers?" asked Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. "What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists?"

___

Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Washington, Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan, Lolita C. Baldor at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan and Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.







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loquaciousone wrote:
Now everyone will want Obama to negotiate the release of their loved ones. I wonder what they were thinking. Medical issues cannot be the reason because anyone kept in captivity for a long period has medical issues.
on June 2,2014 | 07:16AM
HIE wrote:
We've always tried negotiating for Americans taken hostage. Even Israel and Palestine, who have a disdain for each other that is unmatched on earth, participate in prisoner swaps. Reagan negotiated prison swaps, or weapons for prisoners, more accurately. And what do you mean "now"? You think that any family in their right mind wouldn't already want the President of the U.S. to negotiate a release of a loved one? Obviously, that was already the case, because the Bergdahl's were doing just that, prior to the release of their son.
on June 2,2014 | 07:43AM
loquaciousone wrote:
CNN, noting that six soldiers were killed during searches for Bergdahl, also spoke with soldiers upset by the news:

"I was pissed off then and I am even more so now with everything going on," said former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl's platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009. "Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him."
on June 2,2014 | 10:55AM
Winston wrote:
Waaaaiiiit a minute. Susan Rice, the president's national security advisor, on the Sunday talk shows says he was "captured on the field of battle" and we know that what Ms. Rice says, uh, oops.
on June 2,2014 | 11:14AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Loquaiciousone nails it. Six soldiers died while on patrol searching for this guy. If he actually deserted or walked off, I have little regard or sympathy and he should face charges. There seems to be a move to make him into a hero of sorts. Better move slow and check the facts. Something smells bad here.
on June 2,2014 | 11:42AM
Winston wrote:
Oh, yeah. Forgot to mention that Ms. Rice of the Video did it Benghazi fame, also said on TV yesterday that "He (Bergdahl) served the United States with honor and distinction".

Whut!? I'm beginning to get a very disturbing image of what's going on in the White House and the administrations grip on reality. What the heXX?


on June 2,2014 | 11:56AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Oh oh, the GOPhers are adding a Z at the end of Bergdahl's name. Yikes as Alice would say.
on June 2,2014 | 02:00PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Even though he walked away from his post, he is still a member of our armed forces. I'd like to think that we treat armed forced members held in captivity a little bit differently than citizens who are held for other reasons. I was thinking that our fighting men and women would also appreciate the fact that our government will take extraordinary steps to secure their safe return. As for those 5 guys we are letting out, well we some drones that will hopefully address that issue.
on June 2,2014 | 01:52PM
aionokea43 wrote:
Bergdahl was not "captured." Members of his squad stated he deserted his post. Deserters are shot, not rescued. Bergdahl created his own situation and now wants the sympathy of the American people to justify his exchange. Hagel stated we do not negotiate with terrorists. Isn't the Taliban terrorists?
on June 2,2014 | 07:25AM
HIE wrote:
No. The Taliban are not terrorists, per se. Actually, they would have a good claim that Americans are the terrorists. The Taliban had nothing to do with 9-11. They are the Republican Party of Afghanistan -- conservatives who want their entire country to adhere to biblical beliefs. The Taliban only started working with actual terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda, after America invaded their country.
on June 2,2014 | 07:39AM
calentura wrote:
At least one of the released prisoners is believed to be involved in pre 9-11 planning. So he is released with four other Al Qaeda-linked prisoners for a deserter who is arguably responsible for the deaths of American soldiers who went out looking for him. You like this swap? Explain it to me like I'm the parent of one of those who died looking for Bergdahl. And don't blame it on Bush.
on June 2,2014 | 08:22AM
HIE wrote:
Yes. I like this swap. An American soldier with knowledge, albeit probably limited, of the Haqqani Network is now back in our hands and can rejoin his family. Can't say that about the thousands of U.S. military members sent to die in Iraq by Republicans for no good reason. And 5 folks with drone targets on their backs are now back in a place where we can take care of them for good with impunity. Yeah, I'd say that's a good deal.
on June 2,2014 | 11:01AM
Paulh808 wrote:
Eh, blame America first coward, why don't you join the Taliban toit they are so great. Democrats war on women.
on June 2,2014 | 01:36PM
cojef wrote:
He walked off his post and is said to have embraced the Muslim language and will not converse in English. Rhetoric whether or not the Taliban are terrorists or the US for that matter. Depends on which side uses the term.
on June 2,2014 | 08:26AM
Kaimiloa wrote:
There are a lot of things someone might do after five years of captivity. But "embracing the Muslim language" is not one of them. There is no such thing.
on June 2,2014 | 10:32AM
HIE wrote:
Well, ainokea43 posited the question, "Isn't the Taliban terrorists"? So, rhetoric or not, I answered his/her question. And it doesn't matter if he walked off the post or not. He did not leave to join forces with the Taliban against the U.S. He could have been suffering from severe depression when he walked off. He probably was also not encouraged to seek help from superiors prior to that. Maybe even bullied to just "suck it up". The U.S. Army very well could have created the situation, so the U.S. was on the hook to solve it.
on June 2,2014 | 11:04AM
Paulh808 wrote:
Blame the Army for this deserter?
on June 2,2014 | 01:37PM
palani wrote:
OMG, HIE you are such an ignorant "A"!
on June 2,2014 | 10:03AM
HIE wrote:
Care to provide any intelligent response to prove my ignorance? Didn't think so...
on June 2,2014 | 10:56AM
inverse wrote:
I will respond. Bergdahl like Watada, is a problem because if they have strong anti-war feelings, in the US that is fine but do NOT enlist, go through training and then when other people's lives depend on them, do irresponsible, selfish, stoopid acts like Bergdahl deserting his post and then costing the lives of other US soldiers who are ordered to go find him or like Watada, protest about the war after going through officer training where many men lives will depend on him and then claim the war is unjust. You, Watada, Bergdahl as American citizens have every right to be anti-war, anti-military, even I agree with Watada that the Bush-2 war in Iraq for a 2nd time was bogus; but the line is drawn when a person's actions cost the lives of other people and Bergdahl's irresponsible actions of deserting his post, relinquishing his weapon and purposely allowing himself to be captured by the enemy, cost the lives of many Americans. In this case Obama should not have released 5 known muslim terrorists with blood on their hands for the release of Bergdahl.
on June 2,2014 | 11:28AM
loquaciousone wrote:
HIE is high on something.
on June 2,2014 | 10:56AM
fairgame947 wrote:
You are a misguided individual and have no idea of the facts.
on June 2,2014 | 10:41AM
HIE wrote:
Big talk, seeing as you provide zero "facts".
on June 2,2014 | 10:55AM
Winston wrote:
Taliban not terrorists? Who gives a rats behind what they claim we are? The Taliban sheltered, provided training space and refuge for Al Qaeda. Republican party of Afghanistan? You must be joshing. Please to read something.
on June 2,2014 | 11:17AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I suppose the Afghan citizens butchered by the Taliban would have a different opinion of whether they are terrorists or not. Hey, let's ask the women who have been disfigured, abused and whose lives have been ruined.
on June 2,2014 | 11:45AM
HanabataDays wrote:
As the article points out, all this was public knowledge in 2010. Four years later, why my goodness, all of a sudden it's positively calumnious. Why? Because the echo chamber needs a new waveform to bounce around. Any excuse for a quick, uninformed bash.
on June 2,2014 | 09:48AM
Winston wrote:
Well, in 2010 we had yet to exchange 5 top Taliban terrorists for a soldier who may have been a deserter. Nor had we at that time lost the lives of a number of soldiers trying to return him. I believe these intervening facts have influenced the discussion.
on June 2,2014 | 01:44PM
Morimoto wrote:
Maybe his conscience told him to walk away from this immoral war. I would have been more impressed however if he pulled another Nadal Hasan. US has no business in Afghanistan and the country is worse off than before the invasion.
on June 2,2014 | 09:55AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Maybe your conscience needs to be looked at. To be impressed by someone who randomly killed innocent people is disgusting. I have no problem with people protesting and demonstrating for their beliefs but killing people to do so is ridiculous.
on June 2,2014 | 10:42AM
Morimoto wrote:
"To be impressed by someone who randomly killed innocent people is disgusting." So are you talking about the US occupation of various Muslim lands, or how about Vietnam, Iraq? At least Hasan had the courage to go after military targets of the world's most powerful country, more than I can say for occupying American troops. Look in the mirror son, before you go and criticize others.
on June 2,2014 | 11:02AM
Paulh808 wrote:
Move over there you cowardly panty and see what would happen to you?
on June 2,2014 | 01:41PM
Morimoto wrote:
Irrelevant, and so is the arbitrary name calling which shows your immature mindset. You have no idea how the world works, you coward.
on June 2,2014 | 03:09PM
false wrote:
Its premature to judge Berghadl. Lets see what comes out as people begin to look into this case.
on June 2,2014 | 09:59AM
DAGR81 wrote:
never elect an inexperienced person to a position of responsibility and hope he will rise to the occasion. Its not working with Obama and it will not work with schatz.
on June 2,2014 | 10:03AM
Kaimiloa wrote:
You can add Carter and Bush Jr. to that list. As much as I hated Reagan at the time, I'll admit that he challenges your rule.
on June 2,2014 | 10:28AM
inverse wrote:
Also Bergdahl has possibly cost the lives of many soldiers who were ordered to search for him after he deserted. In dangerous patrols meant only to search for Bergdahl, US soldiers were killed by IED and by Taliban. Releasing five of the most dangerous terrorists who have nothing but hate and desire to kill Americans, this prisoner exchange between the US and Muslim terrorists will NOT turn out well in the long run. Guarantee one or all five Guantanamo detainees will somehow manage to leave Qatar and once again lead again Muslim terrorists to kill, bomb or kidnap US or Western civilians somewhere in this world
on June 2,2014 | 10:43AM
Morimoto wrote:
And to think this all could have been avoided if the US had stopped meddling in the Middle East (and by extension Muslim) affairs since the end of WWII. Started with Iran in 1953 and the US is still trying to impose it's will on people who don't want us there. All for profit and political dominance.
on June 2,2014 | 11:05AM
Winston wrote:
Yeah, we'd be a lot better off if we had allowed the Soviets to fill the vacuum in the Middle East after WWII. Had we done so, Iran would have become a Soviet satellite/client and, with presence in the region, the Soviets would have been able to hold the western world hostage just as Russia is now holding Europe hostage to Russian energy resources.

You have your alternate version of history. However, I believe mine is more logical and actually fits into the context of what actually happened during the Cold war. Yours doesn't.


on June 2,2014 | 12:04PM
Morimoto wrote:
You are so misinformed it's comical. First of all the US led overthrown of the Iranian government in 1953 wasn't due to any Soviet influence, it was to preserve oil profits for the West due to Iranian government's desire to nationalize the oil industry. Secondly, Russia isn't holding anyone hostage, at least not anymore than America is holding other countries "hostage" with the threat of economic sanctions and trade deals. 9/11 was a result of this interference. If you really think the US has anything other than their own interests in mind in the Middle East you've got your head in the sand. One must not throw stones from a glass house don't you think, dear boy.
on June 2,2014 | 12:48PM
Paulh808 wrote:
Auwe, HIE & small boto are the products of the liberal educational complex!
on June 2,2014 | 01:46PM
Morimoto wrote:
And you're the product of a no education complex! Coward!
on June 2,2014 | 03:10PM
Winston wrote:
You're welcome (Laughter is the best medicine). However, your post is still wrong, mostly inaccurate, and without global geopolitical context.

Post WWII, the Soviets had just forcibly installed communist governments in most of eastern Europe and had attempted similar coups in Greece and Turkey. Note: The Soviets did not honor their prewar agreement to remove their military forces from Iran until 1947 when forced to do so by US initiative at the UN Security Council. The Marshall Plan was initiated, Kennan's policy of containment became national policy.

But why Iran? First, the global context you ignore, then internal Iranian politics. By not reining in Iran's communists (The Tudeh Party and for other reasons he fell on Washington's enemies list. " CIA library review of "All the Shah's Men ..." (I'll agree the Brit's involvement was driven as much by self interest as anything.

Notes from Eisenhowers diary after the coup clearly showed that his intent was to deliver a serious defeat to Russian intentions and plans in the Middle East, Iran's strategic position being obvious.

Finally, From Reuters: "The EU relies on Russia for about a third of its oil and gas, and tensions with Moscow have heightened concerns among its 28 members about the security of their energy supplies. Some 40 percent of that gas is shipped through Ukraine." Only a fool would not be threatened by this level of dependence given recent events.

So, tut, tut and all that. You're wrong.


on June 2,2014 | 03:33PM
Winston wrote:
Additional thought: History without context and a foundation moral relativism are at the core of this and your other posts today. I can understand the urge do defend one's point of view, sometimes beyond reason. However, to ignore the entire Cold War, the post WWII domination of much of Europe by the Soviets, the obvious Soviet strategic interest in Iran defies reason. Of course the US was in the ME out of self interest. Our vital national interests were and are there. Blindingly obvious.

To have retreated from these interest, the interests of the free world, after WWII, would have created a vacuum filled immediately by the Soviet monstrosity. Did we compromise our ideals while destroying global communism? Yes, sometimes we did. However, in actual real life, sometimes there are only bad choices and worse choices. Same with the murky war with Islamic radicals, a war in which you can't seem to figure out which side you're on. Moral relativism at work.


on June 2,2014 | 03:49PM
seaturtle wrote:
Bergdahl's decision to walk away with no regard for his fellow soldiers, started a chain of deadly events. No good can come from this trade. It doesn't make any sense to save this one individual verses the safety of our country. It just keeps getting worse.
on June 2,2014 | 11:07AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I'm still bothered by Obama's decision to circumvent Congress on the prisoner release. These are real bad boys and a 5 to 1 exchange rate is a bad deal. Basically, 5 terrorists get to go home to places they love while we get one kid who comes home to a place he said he hates.
on June 2,2014 | 11:48AM
loquaciousone wrote:
The first time I heard the word fragging was in Nam. It was special deliver for special people.
on June 2,2014 | 12:16PM
loquaciousone wrote:
The first time I heard the word fragging was in Nam. It was special deliver for special people.
on June 2,2014 | 12:16PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Take it for what is is, the government is closing some loose ends in preparation for departing Afghanistan. We are pulling out most of our combat forces this year so there would be no one left behind to search for the kid. After 2016 when all of our forces are pulled out we can't leave with the dude still unaccounted for. Yeah the kid might have walked away from his post, but you know what, he's still a member of our armed forces and we still needed to bring him home. Those 5 bad guys, who care about them, they can go all jihad against Karsai and whoever succeeds him.
on June 2,2014 | 01:59PM
samidunn wrote:
The world is a lot more dangerous today then two days ago.
on June 2,2014 | 05:28PM
Denominator wrote:
The world became more dangerous when Obama was elected. It just keeps getting worse!
on June 2,2014 | 06:26PM
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