What began as a debate over negotiating with terrorists escalated Monday into anger among many armed services members at the attention being given to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a man who reportedly fled his post five years ago only to be captured by Afghan insurgents.
Bergdahl was freed Saturday in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees. His release was celebrated at first by Washington politicians, including Republicans, though many felt the United States had broken its longstanding policy of not negotiating with terrorists.
By Monday, that had all changed. Soldiers who served with Bergdahl said they were outraged at the possibility he would be accorded a hero’s welcome. He is anything but, they said.
CNN, Rolling Stone, and other media reminded Americans that at least six soldiers were killed in subsequent searches for Bergdahl in rugged Paktika Province in the ensuing days and weeks after he deserted.
The six men reportedly killed while searching for Bergdahl were identified by CNN as Staff Sgt. Clayton Bowen and Pfc. Morris Walker on Aug. 18, 2009; Staff Sgt. Kurt Curtiss on Aug. 26; 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews and Pfc. Matthew Michael Martinek on Sept. 4; and Staff Sgt. Michael Murphrey on Sept. 5.
“He walked off,” said former Pfc. Jose Baggett, a former comrade. “He left his guard post. Nobody knows if he defected, or he’s a traitor, or he was kidnapped. What I do know is he was there to protect us, and instead he decided to defer from America and go and do his own thing. I don’t know why he decided to do that, but we spent so much of our resources, and some of those resources were soldiers’ lives.”
Bergdahl walked away from his base, reportedly without a weapon, in June 2009 and was captured by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network.
Moreover, CNN reported that soldiers in his platoon said attacks seemed to increase against the United States in Paktika Province in the days and weeks following his disappearance.