June 18th, 2014
08:02 PM ET
6 months ago

Bergdahl deal scrutinized at congressional hearing

(CNN) - Emotions ran high Wednesday at a hearing on Capitol Hill to examine the circumstances surrounding Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban in 2009 and the deal that led to his release in late May.

Bergdahl was captured after he walked off his base in Afghanistan's Paktika province, and several of his former platoon-mates have since accused Bergdahl of desertion and endangering the lives of his comrades.

Spc. Cody Full, who was Bergdahl's roommate before their deployment and served closely with him at the base, said at the hearing that he has no doubt Bergdahl deserted and that the desertion was pre-meditated.

"Knowing that someone you needed to trust deserted you in war and did so on his own free will is the ultimate betrayal," Full told members of two subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mike Waltz, who commanded an Army Special Forces unit in eastern Afghanistan when Bergdahl was captured, told subcommittee members that all military resources in that part of the country were redirected to search for Bergdahl and that the Taliban capitalized on that effort to launch attacks.

"They began feeding false information into our informant network in order to lure our forces into a trap," Waltz said.

Waltz, who is now a senior national security fellow with the New America Foundation, added that if "someone was killed during that specific amount of time, unless they tripped and hit their head on the way to the mess hall, they were out looking for Sgt. Bergdahl."

Members of Bergdahl's former platoon have said at least six soldiers were killed searching for him, including 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, whose father Andy Andrews also testified at Wednesday's hearing.

"Exactly why did my son die?" Andrews asked. "Tell me one more time because I don't know what we've accomplished."

Darryn Andrews was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack while his unit was attempting to recover a disabled vehicle. Another soldier, Pfc. Matthew Martinek, was also killed in the attack. Andrews was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in that attack, which are credited with having saved the lives of several fellow soldiers.

The military told Andrews' parents their son was killed searching for a high-ranking Taliban commander. Andy Andrews insists "Bergdahl was never mentioned."

But since the POW's release, he said, six soldiers have approached the family with the revelation their son was actually searching for Bergdahl when he died.

The military has not confirmed this version of events, and at a hearing last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he had seen "no evidence that directly links any American combat death to the rescue or finding or search of Sergeant Bergdahl."

Bergdahl was freed in exchange for five Taliban leaders previously held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Administration officials have defended that deal despite criticisms that the exchange was lopsided and that Congress was not consulted.

Last week, the Army appointed a two-star general to investigate the circumstances behind Bergdahl's capture. Public accounts have varied widely, from those saying he walked away from the outpost to claims he was taken from a latrine.

At Wednesday's hearing, members on both sides of the aisle accused the other side of politicizing the case.

Democrat Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida accused his Republican colleagues of flip-flopping on the issue.

"Many members of Congress who are now saying they oppose this deal supported the very idea of a prisoner exchange and were urging the administration to do more" to secure Bergdahl's release, Deutch said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, urged caution to those attacking Bergdahl's record.

"This is about somebody's service," said Connolly, "and we should withhold judgment on the quality and nature of that service until the facts are known."

"The benefit of the doubt belongs to Mr. Bergdahl," Connolly added.

President Obama urged the same restraint earlier this month, when he told reporters he makes "absolutely no apologies" for authorizing the exchange.

"We have a basic principle," he said. "We do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind."

Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, however, said the administration is touting Bergdahl as a hero "to divert the public's attention from the price that we paid," referring to the five released Taliban detainees.

He and others have criticized the President for hosting Bergdahl's parents at the White House, and for comments made by members of his administration celebrating Bergdahl's release.

In particular, National Security Adviser Susan Rice has come under fire for saying that Sgt. Bergdahl served "with honor and distinction."

Full addressed that comment directly on Wednesday.

"Bowe Bergdahl should not be characterized as having served with 'honor and distinction,'" said Full, who said that he was motivated to speak out because he was offended by the "hero's welcome" given to Bergdahl, which he said was not extended to those who died searching for him.

In perhaps the most poignant moment of the hearing, Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, asked Andy Andrews whether, given the option, he would be willing to trade five senior Taliban leaders to have his son back.

"If my son had been a deserter, then no," Andrews said. "Absolutely not."

"But my son was a man of honor," he continued, fighting back tears, "and I would do almost anything."


Filed under: Afghanistan • Capitol Hill
soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. Doug

    I can't see why we are in Afghanistan in the first place ! Are we really there for the poppies ?

    June 19, 2014 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  2. oh please

    "If my son had been a deserter, then no," Andrews said. "Absolutely not."

    COMPLETE POLITICAL BS

    Anyone, who has a child, regardless of what that child did, would do anything to protect them

    anything

    June 19, 2014 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  3. Namdukve

    What should we do?

    June 19, 2014 03:17 am at 3:17 am |
  4. vikachi

    WAR.. well the spin is off for Barry n Co..on bringing a hero home..now there spinin da other way, even got Rice in it again,shes like that guy in bagdad saying the U S isent there wile U S tanks were wizzin past him.we know Rep.Dem both do this crap but Barry & Co.just think were all retarted or there just retarded here comes da bathroom kidnapping..& to think thay use Bowe & the men who died to ?look good? to get out faster? to be transparent.? i know if Barry could run again,who ever would vote for him again,thay would be retated for sure.that gos for Bush too.tricks R 4 US.rabbits...

    June 19, 2014 03:36 am at 3:36 am |
  5. hs graduate virtryece louis phillips

    Dear lunch lady mille, someone stole ineffective vaccines used to...? back away from the reserves supplies of fema...that is approved by salem lots!

    June 19, 2014 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  6. vikachi

    Or now bowe will say hes gay to get da heat off & no one can be mad at him or there bashers & are da reason he ran away.?im so dizzy from da spinin ...what dose it matter!!! mission accomplished.??? sad sad its all sad..& not good. .

    June 19, 2014 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  7. kols

    The media leaped to the ready on Bergdahl without waiting for all the facts to come out. People should really settle down and withhold judgment until the truth is known through a thorough investigation of all the facts. If the guy was a deserter he deserves to be punished, but at least have the decency to wait for the investigation to be completed. As far as the trade for 5 Taliban I don't think that is entirely unreasonable since when a war ends usually POWs are returned to their home country. No one can honestly say the 5 prisoners will return to fight another day because that is unknown at this point in time.

    June 19, 2014 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  8. Don KC

    INCOMING MESSAGE:

    This is all right wing propaganda to disparage the Messiah. All Americans are hereby directed to repeat the following talking points:
    –Bush is evil and is responsible for everything bad that has happened since 1933.
    –Anyone who questions the trade of the Obama Five for a suspected deserter is a racist and a gun nut.
    –Bergdahl gets the benefit of the doubt and due process. This means a Rose Garden Ceremony to honor him and statements from the National Security Advisor that he served with honor and distinction.
    –Everyone in Bergdahl's unit is a liar and was coerced into making inflammatory statements by the right wing media conspiracy.
    –Any public figure who said a prisoner swap might be possible meant they fully endorsed the deal as executed and are now backtracking.
    –Just because it's a law to inform Congress of a prisoner swap 30 days in advance specifically to prevent exactly what happened here in no way obligates POTUS to follow the law and inform Congress, particularly if his schedule is busy.
    –Everyone will use the term "no man left behind" ad naseum to justify what might otherwise seem to be a pretty crappy deal.
    –At every opportunity accuse anyone who shows the slightest inclination to criticize how the administration handled this of hating US servicemembers.

    All stations acknowledge.

    June 19, 2014 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  9. Alex

    "But since the POW's release, he said, six soldiers have approached the family with the revelation their son was actually searching for Bergdahl when he died"

    SINCE THE RELEASE !!!!! That is since it became a partisan issue ! Which means they had no interest whatsoever about his son and their motive was 100% political.

    June 19, 2014 04:12 am at 4:12 am |
  10. Greg

    Where is the proof? All I hear is a bunch of Republican bs string the pot. I don't think the military would stand by and allow a deserter to walk. There's zero evidence to back up any of these claims. Until their is this is nothing more than a bunch of Republicans grand standing and taking advanced of a bad situation.

    June 19, 2014 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  11. PJ Parker

    "But since the POW's release, he said, six soldiers have approached the family with the revelation their son was actually searching for Bergdahl when he died. "

    LEAVE GRIEVING FAMILIES OUT OF THIS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED SCANDAL.

    I'm not saying they're lying, but this is WAY OUT OF LINE.

    June 19, 2014 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  12. rafterman11

    In perhaps the most poignant moment of the hearing, Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, asked Andy Andrews whether, given the option, he would be willing to trade five senior Taliban leaders to have his son back.

    "If my son had been a deserter, then no," Andrews said. "Absolutely not."

    -

    What a load. I call BS on that one. No parent would want their kid left to the mercy of a brutal enemy like the Taliban, no matter what they did. Its like that kid who got a lung transplant after the parents manipulated the media to move her up the list. People b- and moaned, but the truth is, if that was your kid, you would have done the same thing.

    This whole thing stinks to political high heaven.

    June 19, 2014 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  13. sergeantrick

    If it wasn't some elaborate plan to gather intel from the terrorists then he is a deserter. Bottom line.

    June 19, 2014 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  14. sifto

    This man is being coddled by obama like a king while our real heroes suffer..

    June 19, 2014 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  15. 2kmaro

    Obama said "We have a basic principle," he said. "We do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind."

    Seems he forgot another basic principle: we do not negotiate with terrorists.

    I think that Lt. Andrews' father hit the nail on the head: if Bergdahl was serving with honor, then that "non negotiation" policy should be reconsidered, but if Bergdahl left his post voluntarily and walked into the hands of the enemy willingly, then in effect, he took off the uniform and he was not "left behind", he chose to stay behind. The final decision on whether this trade (a bad deal at best in the long run, I believe) was warranted in any fashion depends on the outcome of the investigation of the circumstances of just how Bergdahl ended up in the enemy camp.

    June 19, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  16. Maria Kirchner

    This is out and out just plain wrong.They are in essence holding a trial without Bergdahl even there to tell his side of the story.Thia is sickening and wrong on so many levels.This guys life is over even if he has valid reasons because of this witch hunt.

    June 19, 2014 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  17. Bob R., Maryland

    Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl should sue these know nothings who accused Bergdahl of desertion and endangering the lives of his comrades for defamation.

    June 19, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  18. Maria Kirchner

    This is out and out just plain wrong.They are in essence holding a trial without Bergdahl even there to tell his side of the story.This is sickening and wrong on so many levels.This guys life is over even if he has valid reasons because of this witch hunt.

    June 19, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  19. r de best

    This is so sad. Our servicemen provide the ultimate sacrifice. Then to find out what really happened. Charge him with treason.

    June 19, 2014 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  20. Al

    And yet there will be fools out there that will say he is a hero that he fought bravely, and the didn't abandon his post or his unit. Perhaps they are the ones that can't read, or comprehend what the men that were there are saying, perhaps someone with 4th grade education should read it for them and slowly, very slowly explain.

    In some cases the apple does not fall far from the tree.

    June 19, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  21. NYVeteran

    Deserter or not he was an American soldier and our soldiers creed says we leave no one behind, period. Soldiers don't get to pick and choose their missions. The military justice system will grind on but the fact that this kids was kept under terrible conditions alone for 5 years was more than punishment enough for those seeking red meat here. No one died looking for him. Soldiers died doing their jobs. The political theatrics using our military is sickening. The macro issue is why did we go if we never intended to win, and why the heck were we in Iraq at all? Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perl should be on trial not SGT Bergdahl.

    June 19, 2014 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  22. Someone Else

    So, regardless of whether or not he deserted, why is Congress investigating this if not for politics? Desertions are never tried in Congress and this belongs in a military courtroom, but in Congress. Honestly, this is ridiculous and is shameful to our country. Bergdahl's not there with a lawyer. The "defense" hasn't called any witnesses. This is sad politics.

    June 19, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  23. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Hey Congress... Why don't you do some actual WORK for a change? Monday morning quaterbacking is getting old, and it seems that it's ALL you ever do....

    June 19, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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