On June 30, 2009, a young solider, Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, decided that the Army life just wasn’t for him and after writing several missives to spell out his disdain for his current circumstance at his post in Afghanistan and mailing off his kit to family and friends, he decided to go on an unaccompanied (and unauthorized) “walk-about” in Afghanistan. This was generally regarded by all as a “bad career move.”
The young private was swiftly captured and made a prisoner of war by the Taliban. He was moved to Pakistan for safe keeping as a guest of the Haqqani terror network (as so designated by the U.S. government on September 6, 2012). This transfer to Pakistan placed Bergdahl out of touch from U.S. forces due to the artificial U.S. limitation to not pursue terrorists across the Durand Line from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
Bergdahl, sadly, is simply a pawn in a much larger game of badly played chess.
Significant resources in manpower and surveillance technology was utilized to try to find and return Bergdahl. This action diminished the U.S. military’s operational capability to attack the Taliban in other parts of Afghanistan. It also resulted in the loss of life, at the hands of the Taliban, of his fellow soldiers who were sent out to find him.
Over his years of captivity the Army saw fit to promote Bergdahl not once but twice – first to E-4/Specialist and then to his current rank of E-5/Sergeant.
Years later President Obama, with other options on the table, decided in December 2013, that the best political option was to trade five senior Taliban detainees (two of which were material supporters of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks) for the return of Sgt Bergdahl.
I was briefed in December 2013 that a decision had been made to make a “trade” over other options and the trade was confirmed to me by senior leadership in the Defense Department.
Again – this was a political option – not an operational one. There were at least three other viable operational options for the live return of Bergdahl that did not include the return of the five Taliban leaders. Those options were ignored by President Obama.
The five Taliban leaders were traded for the release of Sgt Bergdahl on May 31, 2014. The five Taliban were sent to reside in Qatar, in luxury conditions, for one year. After one year they would be allowed to go about their business as they saw fit.
These five Taliban leaders will soon, in May 2015, be allowed to return to Afghanistan to what will no doubt be a “rock star” welcome, and resume their efforts to both fight U.S. forces still in the country and work to destabilize the central Afghan government. (A government that, according to the White House, is what we’ve invested 13 years of blood and treasure to establish and protect.)
By the way, we will have no ability to track or monitor these five “enemy combatants” once they arrive in Afghanistan and who will no doubt resume their effort to kill American and Afghan government forces immediately.
Does this sound like a national security policy conflict? You betcha! Why? Because And the political objectives, in the eyes of this White House, trump all other policies – even if it means damage to our national security interests.
The reason that the option to swap Bergdahl for the five Taliban senior leaders was so appealing is because President Obama wants to close the military prison at Guantanamo, period. No matter the real world harm such a move will cause to our allies and to the operations of our military forces. This political narrative, above all else, has drove the horrid and dangerous decision to release the five Taliban leaders.
Further – legally, the president violated the law in authorizing the trade of the so-called Taliban Five for Bergdahl.
Under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2014, the president is required to provide Congress with 30 days notice of any release of detainees from Guantanamo; no such notification was made. There was no justification for the president to have violated this law. To date, Congress has failed to hold the president accountable for his actions.
Bergdahl, sadly, is simply a pawn in a much larger game of badly played chess. He was inappropriately praised by the president in the May 31, 2014 Rose Garden press conference marking his return (a blatant attempt to influence the Army chain of command regarding the disposition of Bergdahl’s desertion from his post in combat) and by NSC Advisor Susan Rice who called him a “hero” in a lame attempt to build up Bergdahl to justify his importance in the trade.
Two investigations, one conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in 2009 and a second AR 15-6 conducted in 2014 by Maj. Gen Kenneth Dahl, have reached the factual conclusion that Bergdahl violated punitive article 85 – desertion, of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
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Disclaimer: This was not written by Silent Soldier.