Bergdahl, wearing a dark blue Army dress uniform and closely cropped hair, is arraigned in military court. He defers entering a plea and does not decide whether he wants to face a court-martial with a jury or one with just a judge.
The Army says Bergdahl will face court-martial with a potential life sentence. In ordering the court martial Army General Robert Abrams did not follow the recommendation of a preliminary hearing which, according to Bergdahl’s lawyer, called for Bergdahl to face a proceeding that could impose a potential maximum penalty of a year in confinement.
Bergdahl’s lawyer says they had “had hoped the case would not go in this direction.” He also asks Donald Trump to “cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation against our client.”
Bergdahl is interviewed on the Serial podcast.
All I was seeing was basically, leadership failure to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me, were, literally, from what I could see, in danger of something seriously going wrong and somebody being killed.
When the interviewer calls his actions a “gutsy move”:
Gutsy, but still stupid…Twenty minutes out, I’m going ‘good grief. I’m way over my head’… suddenly it really starts to sink in. I really did something bad. Well, not bad, but I really did something serious.
He says it took the Taliban about a day to find him.
I couldn’t do anything against six or seven guys with AK-47s, and they pulled up and that was it.
To the point where you just want to scream, and like I can’t scream. I can’t risk that, so it’s like you’re standing there, screaming in your mind.
In a rally in Las Vegas’s Treasure Island hotel, Trump says Bergdahl should have been executed.
We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed. Thirty years ago he would have been shot.
[Trump] has become a broken record on this subject…If he took the time to study what actually emerged at the preliminary hearing he would be singing a different tune.
Bergdahl tells investigators he left his base to report on misconduct in his unit and that he had intended to come right back. His lawyer plans to argue that Bergdahl was AWOL rather than a deserter. The difference in terminology could spare Bergdahl from receiving a life sentence.
He had concerns about certain conditions in the unit and things that happened in the unit and he figured that the only way to get any attention to them would be to get that information to a general officer.
Bergdahl is charged with desertion and misbehavior. Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, a lecturer at Yale Law School, says the Army has scheduled an Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian law, for April 22 in San Antonio, Texas, where Bergdahl is based. The hearing will determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a general court martial.
Rep. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, states in a letter that Joint Special Operations Command made the payment covertly as part of a release deal, but that it was stolen by the Afghan intermediary claiming to represent the Haqqani terrorist network. Letter addressed to Hagel:
Given the significance of this matter, as well as the fact that Pentagon officials have denied that a payment was even considered — and you also said you were unaware of any such attempt — I ask you to immediately inquire with JSOC to determine the specific order of events
The Pentagon says the payment wasn’t a ransom, but was meant to be made in exchange for intelligence leading to Bergdahl’s release.
Army investigator Major General Kenneth Dahl estimates that he may need more than the allotted 60 days to complete and submit the investigative report. A statement released by the army clarifies:
As the investigating officer works through this final stage, it is possible that he will have to follow up on issues that may require additional witness interviews.
According to Bergdahl’s lawyer, Gene Fidell, the soldier intends to leave the army and go to college once his investigation is complete. Fidell says:
This is a chapter that’s going to come to an end, sooner rather than later, I hope, so he can get on with his life and pursue a college education and do those things a person wants to do at his age and make up for lost time, frankly.
Bergdahl is questioned by the Army about the events surrounding leaving his post, which led to him being taken prisoner by the Taliban. No reports on what kind of questions or the answers Bergdahl gave at the time. Army spokesperson:
This in an ongoing investigation; the investigating officer has 60 days from his appointment to conclude his investigation; however, he can request additional time if he feels it is necessary.
Bergdhal retains attorney Eugene Fidell as representation in the ongoing investigation into whether he is guilty of deserting his post in Afghanistan. A lawyer and lecturer at Yale University, Fidell will be representing Bergdhall pro bono. When asked about taking on Bergdhal’s case and not being paid for it, Fidell says,
Lawyers have a professional obligation to represent people who are friendless and vilified. Unpopular cases resonate with many lawyers, I’m one of them.
Bergdahl will return to duty possibly as soon as today. He will be assigned a desk job at Fort Sam Houston in a unit responsible for homeland defense, civil support operations and security operation programs.
We are treating him the same way we would treat any other person assigned here. If the family called … we would do what we could to support them.
Two films are currently in process to tell the Bergdahl story. The makers of Zero Dark Thirty’s film will focus on his time with the Taliban and the hostage exchange. while Todd Field, the director of In The Bedroom plans a profile of Bowe based on the work of journalist, Michael Hastings. Currently, both projects still need to obtain the legal rights to Bowe’s biography.
An unnamed two-star general in the US Army is appointed to begin investigating the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance and subsequent captivity. The general is scheduled to begin his investigation some time in the coming week.
Berdahl is flown from Germany to an airfield near Lackland Air Force Base, and transported directly to the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas. Bergdahl’s parents were not present upon his arrival, and Bergdahl has not yet requested to see them. In a video briefing, Maj. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo describes Bergdahl’s continuing treatment plan,
Passages from Bergdahl’s personal journal, along with numerous essays, stories, and emails are provided to the Washington Post by Bergdahl’s close friend, Kim Harrison. The texts reveal Bergdahl’s thoughts on war, himself, and plans for the future. There is no mention of the Taliban in any of the writings. Several days before disappearing from his base in Afghanistan, Bergdahl mailed to Harrison a package containing his laptop, journals, military records, and other personal effects. Harrison recently allowed the army to study the materials in the course of the Bergdahl investigation.
Compared to hell of the real wars of the past, we are nothing but camping boy scots. Hiding from children behind our heavy armored trucks and our c-wire and sand bagged operating post, we tell our selves that we are not cowards.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Bergdahl doesn’t yet want to talk to his family on the phone.
Still in hospitalized in a private room in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Bergdahl tells his medical team that his captors held him in a metal cage in total darkness for weeks at a time – as punishment for attempts at escape. While Bergdahl exhibits minimal physical disorders, inlduding skin and gum issues caused by poor nutrition, he is in good general physical condition. But until doctors and army officials determine that Bergdahl is emotionally fit, he is not yet permitted direct contact with his family or the press.
Bob and Jani Berghal receive emails containing death threats, with at least four are being investigated by the FBI. As a result of the threats, the couple is being provided with personal security, while members of their community continue to express support. Maggie Springer, who is helping organize Hailey’s Memorial Day Ceremony says of the event’s Facebook page:
There is just a huge array of venom that has inundated the page and unfortunately some of it does talk about physical harm in one form or another to the Bergdahls or the town itself. They go as far as to mention that Bowe should be put in front of firing squad, and that Bob should be put through the same.”
Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter tells Reuters:
We’ve always come together in tragedy or crisis, whether it be fire or one of our own being a prisoner of war. Whatever the problem is, the community will be there to help the people experiencing it.
Upon Bowe’s release, several politicians gave their support via Twitter. Rep. Mark Amodei says,
Best news I’ve heard in a long time!
while GOP Senate Joni Ernst says,
US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl freed after being reported missing 5 yrs in Afghanistan. Thoughts & prayers go out to Sgt. Bergdahl & his family.
Democrat Rep. Stephen Lynch also showed support, posting,
Great to hear that Bo Bergdahl has been released from captivity in Afgh/Pak. Warmest regards to his family with gratitude for his/their service and sacrifice.
It has been found that those three posts were eventually deleted from their respective accounts. Other politicians have also followed suit. When Rep. Lee Terry’s team is questioned concerning his deleted posts, they state that the information that surfaced concerning Bowe and the exchange were troubling, and they believed it appropriate to remove them.
Some politicians have been vocal about their disagreement with the hostage swap, such as Sen. Ted Cruz who finds it disturbing. Rep. Buck Mckeon has voiced that, to many people, Obama has broken the law by not informing Congress appropriately before taking action. Mckeon’s committee, the House Armed Services Committee, plan to hold hearings to discuss the hostage exchange.
The welcome back celebration for Bowe in Hailey, Idaho is cancelled. With the negative feedback the town has received, organizers express their concerns about security for the potential amount of supporters and non-supporters that would be in attendance. Chamber of Commerce President Jane Drussel Drussel, who has personally received hate mail and phone calls, due to her support of Bergdahl’s release in her statements to the media, clarifies that the event was planned to be a welcome home ceremony, not a hero’s welcome.
The joy has all of a sudden become not so joyful.
In addition to desertion, military troops also claim Bergdahl cost the lives of six U.S. soldiers. These soldiers were a part of the mission to retrieve Bergdahl. Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen and Private 1st Class Morris Walker died in a roadside bomb. Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss was shot and died from his wounds while supporting Afghan security forces. Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews died in an explosive attack to his vehicle. Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey and Private 1st Class Matthew Martinek both died from their wounds after an explosive attack.
Pentagon officials currently lean towards not charging Bowe with violations, as they feel his five- year captivity was enough. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says that the priority is to asses Bowe’s health and to reunite him with his family.
The Department of Defense and Senate Intelligence Committee will meet June 10 to examine the conditions that lead to the hostage exchange. Some military members want Bergdahl to be court martialed after accusations of abandonment. Currently, he does not have a charge, but lawmakers are persistent in having public hearings to further examine the exchange. Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary defends:
This was the right thing to do because we do not leave our men and women in uniform behind.
Select Intelligence Committee member, Saxby Chambliss, comments that the note Bergdahl is said to have left behind when he left, is not included in the classified file. Bowe is said to have left the note on his bed, with statements more supportive of the Taliban than the American mission in Afghanistan. The files also did not include interviews from Berghdahl’s platoon mates, some of which claim Bergdahl to be a deserter and traitor.
Normally those classified files are pretty informative.
Three former members of Bergdahl’s platoon claim that on June 30, 2009, Bowe left his Afghanistan post without notifying anyone. They also note that he previously made comments about exploring the Middle East and his disappointment in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. General Martin Dempsey says that the Army may investigate possible charges of desertion, among other violations.
Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty.
If the Army recovers evidence of Bergdahl deserting his post, then he will get a court-martial. The U.S. is not at war with the Taliban, so he will not receive the death penalty given to deserters in that scenario. However, he may receive years of jail time, along with dishonorable discharge. Bowe is currently being evaluated at a U.S. hospital in Germany.
Cheney calls the Bergdahl exchange “bad staff work” and believes the Obama Administration negotiated with terrorists. He notes the possibility that the five released Taliban members will resume their battle positions. To Cheney, the exchange was not a good deal. He does not believe it should be treated as a victory for the president, as the negotiations were for a person who Cheney believes left his post.
We’ll end up paying another kind of price because of the transaction that’s been negotiated here.
The U.S. government releases Taliban detainees to Qatar to complete the prisoner exchange. A video uploaded onto a Taliban website shows these detainees being welcomed to Qatar.
The Taliban release a video that documents the release of Bowe to U.S. forces. Taliban members provide commentary on the exchange. The commentator calls it a “historical achievement.” He also notes that the Taliban were disappointed with how the Americans rushed through the procedure. Two Americans shake their hands, however it is customary in Afghanistan to also provide greetings and a friendly chat. The Taliban are also offended at the way one of the soldiers pushes his left-hand forward for shaking. The commentary ends with words for Bergdahl to not come back to Afghanistan.
An anonymous soldier details his experience after Bowe’s disappearance. The soldier, along with 34 other men, was briefed on the hostage rescue/recovery mission for Bowe. The soldier then flew to Bowe’s last location, which is where they were told Bowe’s unit was ambushed. Upon arrival, the soldier notes no evidence of bullet shell casings.
This [ambush] has been proven false through written statements, including those of my unit commander.
As more negative information came out about Bowe, several units stopped looking for him. After analyzing the videos of Bowe made by his Taliban captors, the anonymous soldier concluded that Bowe vowed to help the Afghan people.
Bergdahl became a sympathizer, walked off his post to seek out the Taliban in order to join their ranks, help and live with them.
According to the soldier, the Taliban seek to release more prisoners, and warns it is now a dangerous environment for American soldiers who may captured for similar hostage exchanges.
Bergdahl’s father, Bob, says he is proud of how patient, determined and resilient his son was during his 5-year Taliban captivity.
But most of all, I’m proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people, and what you were willing to do to go to that length. And I think you have succeeded
Bowe’s father urged him to trust his military reintegration team, and Jani Bergdahl told her son to take all the time he needs to heal and decompress. They say they are grateful for the work that the U.S. government and other countries — including Qatar, which served as a go-between in the negotiations — did to bring their son home.
You are from a strong tribe, you are even stronger now. Five years is a seemingly endless long time, but you’ve made it. … You are free. Freedom is yours. I will see you soon, my beloved son.
After five years in captivity Bergdahl is released to the U.S. military in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees. Berghdahl was the last servicemember still missing as a result of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. . President Obama also made brief remarks, saying:
While Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten.
President Barack Obama announces the release of Bowe Bergdahl. In exchange for Bergdahl’s release after five years of captivity, five detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be released to Qatar.
Bergdahl’s hometown in Hailey, Idaho prepares for his return. The welcome-home celebration, named “Bowe Is Back”, is scheduled for June 28, 2014. Bowe’s return will not only be celebrated by Hailey, but its larger neighboring town, Sun Valley. Hailey has actively supported Bowe’s return in many ways since his capture in 2009. This support involves yellow-themed window shop signs, ribbons and balloons. They have also planted trees in the community garden for each year Bowe was not home. In a public speech, Idaho’s Chairman Larry Kenck graciously thanks Obama for making Bowe’s release a reality.
The Taliban temporarily suspends negotiations regarding Bergdahl’s release. Since June, mediation has been conducted by Qatar. A Taliban spokesman says:
The leadership of the Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend the process for some time due to the current complex political situation in the country. The process will remain suspended without the exchange of the prisoners until our decision to resume.
A U.S. military official tells CNN that the military has obtained a new video of Bergdahl. Regarding US government actions taken to orchestrate Bowe’s release, a Pentagon spokesman says:
We cannot discuss all the details of our efforts, but there should be no doubt that on a daily basis — using our military, intelligence and diplomatic tools — we work to see Sgt. Bergdahl returned home safely.
The International Red Cross delivers a letter to Berghal’s parents, who are confident that the handwritten letter they received was penned by their son. The Berghals release a statement:
We hope Bowe’s captors will again consider his parents’ plea to release him, but in the meantime, we ask that you please continue to keep him in good health and allow him to keep corresponding with us.
Bergdahl receives his second promotion while in captivity, in accordance with the rank he would have received had he continued his military service as planned. Brig. Gen. Rick Mustion presents a certificate of the promotion to Bergdahl’s parents, in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho.
Robert Bergdahl, Bowe’s father, posts a YouTube video in which he asks the Pakistan forces to work towards his son’s release. He then thanks them for all efforts made thus far.
I address the Pakistani armed forces. Our family is counting on your professional integrity and honour to secure the safe return of our son. And we thank you.
To Bowe he concludes:
We have been quiet in public but we have not been quiet behind the scenes. Continue to be patient and kind to those around you. You are not forgotten.
Another video is released by the Taliban, and provided to reporters by IntelCenter – a private, US based organization that tracks Islamic extremists. Bergdahl appears only briefly in the film, while most of the footage is of military action in Afghanistan. NATO is investigating the time and location where the shots of Bergdahl were filmed.
Another video of Bergdahl is released, depicting Bowe performing push-ups to demonstrate that he is in good health. During the seven minute film, Bowe says he wants to go home, and:
This war isn’t worth the waste of human life that has cost both Afghanistan and the U.S. It’s not worth the amount of lives that have been wasted in prisons, Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, all those places where we are keeping prisoners.
A video of Bergdahl is posted on the Internet. In the film Bergdahl says he was captured after lagging behind during a patrol. After the Pentagon positively identifies the missing soldier, his father issues a statement through the US Department of Defense:
We hope and pray for our son’s safe return to his comrades and then to our family, and we appreciate all the support and expressions of sympathy shown to us by our family members, our friends and others across the nation.
Bergdahl’s captors release a second video of him.In the film Bowe appears dressed in an army uniform and helmet, and provides his military service and deployment details. He then relates that his captors have treated him well, and belittles the way the American government treats its military prisoners.
Disillusioned with the US Army and the merits of his deployment in Afghanistan, Bowe writes an email to his parents – the last direct message they will receive from him for over five years.
These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid.
The Taliban threatens to kill a captured American soldier unless the US suspends its military operations in two districts of southeastern Afghanistan. While the military dismisses the death threats, it airdrops fliers demanding the soldier’s release. The US military does not name Bowe as the captured soldier, but already has air and ground troops searching for him.
Bowe reportedly walks off his military post in Pakita Province, Afghanistan, leaving his body armor and weapons behind. Local residents tell AP reporters that the soldier is held by a Taliban group led by a commander called Maulvi Sangin. According to a report publicized by WikiLeaks, the army views Bowe’s disappearance as a kidnapping.
Bowe and his unit – the 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment – are deployed to Afghanistan as infantry soldiers. About six months later, the unit is filmed on site by American reporter Deborah Gembara.
Bowe joins the US Army without telling his parents, but later receives their support. He trains in Georgia, and is then assigned to1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based in Fort Richardson, Alaska. A former roommate, Shelly Horton, says about his enlistment:
He wasn’t going to go to college. He liked the odd jobs, but I think he was ready for a career, and that is the career he chose.
Bergdahl enlists in the US Coastguard.