June 18th, 2014
08:02 PM ET
5 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. donaldhorn

    You never leave a soldier with the enemy. Regardless of how the soldier ended up in enemy hands. Anyone who believes differently has never been called to serve and knows diddly-squat about war or war maneuvers.

    June 18, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  2. RussGriz

    Ok, now there are soldiers testifying UNDER OATH. Where are the nay-saysers now? I suppose now they will have to step up their attacks on these soldier's character, since they still can not dispute THE FACTS.

    June 18, 2014 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  3. PoBoy

    All these politicians make me sick. There is no limits to how far they'll go to score poitical points. They are not interested in the truth, on this or any other matter. It's so easy for people to say that they wouldn't have approve this trade, because it wasn't their son who was being traded for. I suspect they would have a very different opinion if Sgt Bergdhal was their son.

    June 18, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  4. Steve- Illinois

    My condolences Mr. Andrews, your son truly was a man of honor.
    May he rest in peace, and may your heart heal.

    June 18, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  5. Bob

    Maybe the real crininal act here was made by the leaders who put these men into a useless war without a plan?

    June 18, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  6. JT

    Obama equals incompetence. Pretty bad when he gets worse ratings then Bush.

    June 18, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  7. Greg

    Let the investigation conclude. I really don't like the slanted CNN position of "sounds like he's guilty to me" implication.

    June 18, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  8. bayeranton

    Obama needs to stay out of this , Let the trial run its coarse and the sentence be served

    June 18, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  9. Jodo

    But.... but... but Susan Rice done said what he served wit honor and distinction.....

    June 18, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  10. Grego

    If he did desert then he should be court marshaled.

    June 18, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  11. Igor

    According to the lawyers, the investigation on Bergdahl will be strung out for years. By the time they court-martial him, if they bother with it at all, the issue will be long buried.

    Let's keep in mind, too, that 0-bama traded the "Taliban Dream Team" for a deserter, and is going to easily skate and not be held accountable.

    Remember on election day.

    June 18, 2014 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    "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." "

    And that's the difference folks...all this talk from those who support Private Bergdahl's fathers actions who say "If it was your child you would have done the same thing." Wrong is wrong no matter how much you love someone and that can be one of the hardest things for a parent to deal with when such happens.

    Regarding Private "Bergdahl has paid his dues."...no he has not...this is like saying "If my child commits a crime he/she not be subject to legal persecution because I already punished them.:...should the investigation find any criminal wrong doing (failure to obey an order, etc) there should punishment.

    "But my son was a man of honor," he continued, fighting back tears, "and I would do almost anything." May your fine son be at peace Sir.

    VR/

    June 18, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  13. patches

    What an easy answer when your son is dead and not missing.. Oh sure, had my son been a deserter I wouldn't love him at all! It's your son. You would love him regardless. Those Taliban had been in there for a decade. You think Bergdahl looked bad when he was released? You can bet those guys were most likely mentally brain dead and micro chipped like lab rats. Most likely we released them back to see where they went so we could get an idea of how the Taliban works. There is something else going on here. I know it. You should know it too.

    June 18, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  14. William Lynn

    If any soldiers died looking for Bowe Bergdahl, it wasn't Bergdahl's fault. It was the fault of the unit's leadership. If soldiers die, it's their leadership who let them down, not the missing soldier. I'm retired Army. That's just how it works. How can the Republicans trump this cause up? If Bush did this, what do you think the reaction would have been? A bunch of partisan hypocrites, is all I can say.

    June 18, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  15. papajeuhn

    "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." "

    And that's the difference folks...all this talk from those who support Private Bergdahl's fathers actions who say "If it was your child you would have done the same thing." Wrong is wrong no matter how much you love someone and that can be one of the hardest things for a parent to deal with when such happens.

    Regarding Private "Bergdahl has paid his dues."...no he has not...this is like saying "If my child commits a crime he/she not be subject to legal persecution because I already punished them.:...should the investigation find any criminal wrong doing (failure to obey an order, etc) there should punishment.

    "But my son was a man of honor," he continued, fighting back tears, "and I would do almost anything." May your son be at peace Sir.

    VR/

    June 18, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  16. KEVIN

    This is sickening that the Republicans are using the parents of a dead soldier to demonize a POW as a political ploy. This should help encourage people to join the army. The Rublicans have just volunteered for a suicide mission

    June 18, 2014 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  17. MrCasual77

    No surprise. Democrats & Obama can cover all they want but the proof is in the pudding. Bowe deserted when America needed him most, lives were lost searching for him, & he should never be labeled a hero.

    June 18, 2014 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  18. jerry

    another obama goof. Just what has this guy done that is not a complete mess? Today, we find 76% of ACA sign ups are getting tax payer dollars for their health insurance… Russia is working to put together a collation to use other that the dollar for trade…and it goes on and on. We can't wait until 2016 to get this corrected...

    June 19, 2014 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  19. steve

    Yeah sure andy andrews we believe you when you say that you wouldn't exchange your own son for prisoners if he had deserted.

    June 19, 2014 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  20. Jet

    War is ugly and brutal. Stop holding grudges.
    Let go, it's over and take care of yourself, and your family.
    This is how people waste their lives.

    June 19, 2014 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  21. pro-Russian-Activist

    "Members of Bergdahl's former platoon have said at least six soldiers were killed searching for him"

    and how many of your "soldiers" died searching for WMDs in Iraq? Where's the anger at George W Bush?

    June 19, 2014 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  22. Lavon

    The Coastguard drummed him out and he should have never been accepted into the military in the first place and all accounts of the particular unit he served in and the leadership he served under are not glowing either. That said, the man spent most of 5 years in chains locked in a box, he has more than paid the price for his actions – leave him the hell alone and let him have his life back. You'll have to pardon me for holding my opinion in reserve concerning him being the cause of the deaths of others, the military doesn't have a good track record when it comes to honesty either and often soldiers have their own personal and political motives for the slant they put on the stories they tell too.

    June 19, 2014 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  23. tara grewal

    he is a traitor mark my word i served in the rogue military of india for 12 years and i should know.

    June 19, 2014 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  24. Jadi

    Well IMO Spc. Cody Full should be sued for defamation and slander of Bergdahl ,...............enough of him and his 15 min of fame .

    June 19, 2014 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  25. pbcalif

    All hearsay. Wouldn't be allowed in a court of law. The Republicans will be running for cover when they find out Bergdahl did nothing wrong. The Republicans have stooped to a new low, including John McCain.

    June 19, 2014 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6