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Beau Bergdahl Desertion

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Beau Bergdahl - U.S. Army Deserter in Afghanistan

Beau Bergdahl, a U.S. Army Soldier who deserted his post in Mest-Lalak, Paktika province in Afghanistan in June 2009, was captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for years. He would be released after five years of imprisonment after President Obama authorized his exchange for five high-level Taliban commanders held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Captivity. He was held captive by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network for five years. Bergdahl provide a statement detailing his captivity. For a period of time he was chained to a bed after a few escape attempts. Much of his time was in solitary confinement. Many times he was blindfolded. 2.  

Prisoner Exchange. Bergdahl was exchanged for five high-level Taliban commanders who were imprisoned at the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba.

Legality of the Prisoner Exchange. Many have criticized the exchange of Bergdahl for five high-level and important prisoners. Some have questioned the legality. 3.  

Hometown Support. During his captivity Bergdahl was heavily supported by his hometown. However, once he was releases and news of the circumstances of his captivity reached his hometown the welcome home ceremony the community was planning was cancelled.

Stateside Duty Subsequent to Return. Bergdahl has been serving on active duty at an Army post in San Antonio since his return.

Military Charges. Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Desertion carries a maximum of five years imprisonment while misbehavior could earn him life in prison if convicted. The 'misbehavior before the enemy' charge is the more serious of the two charges. The penalty for the misbehavior charge carries a maximum punishment of life behind bars, a dishonorable discharge, a reduction in rank, and loss of thousands of dollars in pay and benefits. This more serious charge has less to do with his actions during captivity and more to do with leaving his unit which diverted scarce war-fighting resources and exposed men to danger in their years-long search for him. 5. 

Article 32 Hearing. The hearing for SGT Bergdahl took place in July 2015 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The decision to charge Bergdahl was made by General Mark Milley, former commander of ISAF Joint Command (IJC). Once the Article 32 is completed the report will be forwarded to Milley - who has several courses of action he can take. These range from no further action to a special or general court-martial.

Courtmarital Scheduled. In January it was determined that a court martial will be held in August 2016. Several hearings will take place between January and August 2016.

Bergdahl's Defense. The former Taliban prisoner says he always intended to return to his unit after reporting misconduct in his unit to a general officer. This could possibly reduce the charge from desertion to absent without leave (AWOL). The difference could be between one month in prison or a lifetime behind bars. 1.  This defense is rather weak. His platoon, posted at a remote location, was due to move to FOB Sharana the day after Bergdahl walked off. Had he waited just one day he would have been at the very large FOB Sharana base where some high-ranking Army officers were stationed. Or caught a quick helicopter flight to Bagram Air Field (BAF) where he could report his claims to some general officers. 4.  

Websites with Info about Beau Bergdahl

Blog Posts by Afghan War News

Serial Podcast - Season 2. The Bowe Bergdahl case is serialized in this podcast series. Beau Bergdahl tells his side of the story.

News Reports on Beau Bergdahl

January 18, 2016. "The Psychology Behind Strong Emotional Reactions to Bergdahl", Task & Purpose.

December 10, 2015. "Listening to 'Serial's' Season 2? Follow along with our Bowe Bergdahl coverage", The Washington Post.

December 10, 2015. "Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, From Captivity to Courtroom", The New York Times.

December 10, 2015. "Here's what Bowe Bergdahl was posting to Facebook before he was captured", Business Insider.

December 7, 2015. "Congress: Bowe Bergdahl Swap Was FUBAR", by Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef, The Daily Beast.

September 7, 2015. "Military selects rarely used charge for Bowe Bergdahl case", Military Times. He will be charged with misbehavior before the enemy.

June 5, 2015. "Bowe Bergdahl's lawyers want top Army general off his desertion case, citing politics". The Washington Post. The defense contends that General Milley, soon to be Army Chief of Staff, will have a political angle in the case.

June 3, 2015. "Army whistleblower asked to testify on Bergdahl". By Austin Wright, Politico. A Senate panel is asking a war-hero-turned whistleblower and Special Forces officer, LTC Jason Amerine, to testify. Amerine has stated that the Bergdahl swap for five Taliban leaders adversely affected other efforts underway to free other Western hostages held in Pakistan.

June 1, 2015. "Petraeus hedges on Bergdahl swap". The Hill. The retired general provides his perspective on the swap for five high-level Taliban fighters.

April 9, 2015. "Untangling the Mysteries Behind Bowe Bergdahl's Rescue Mission", Newsweek. Michael Ames writes about his disappearence the the men who searched for him.

April 2, 2015. "Army sets date for Bergdahl Article 32". Army Times. The Article 32 hearing is scheduled for July 8th at Fort Sam Houston.

March 26, 2015. "Bergdahl should pay for betrayal: Opposing view", USA Today. A Special Forces officer, Michael Waltz, who was in Afghanistan at the time of Bergdahl's desertion says he should be punished.

March 26, 2015. "Exclusive Video shows Bowe Bergdahl days before he walked off his base". The Guardian. Film was shot by Sean Smith who spent a month with Bergdahl's unit in Afghanistan.

March 26, 2015. "Bowe Bergdahl describes brutal treatment in Taliban hands". Politico. Bergdahl describes his five years of captivity by the Taliban and Haqqani Network in a two-page statement.



1. For more on Bergdahl's defense see  "Bergdahl's Defense Is He Was Planning to Come Back". Bloomberg View, March 27, 2015.

2. See Bergdahl's two-page statement on his capture and captivity. Posted by The Washington Post.

3. For an indepth look at the legality of the prisoner exchange that gave Bergdahl freedom read "Was the Bergdahl Swap Lawful?", by Jack Goldsmith, Lawfare Blog, March 25, 2015.

4. For more on the platoon's scheduled move to a large FOB one day after Bergdahl's desertion see "Some in Bergdahl's platoon undercut his emerging defense", CNN News, March 29, 2015.

5. For more on 'misbehavior before the enemey' read "Bergdahl's Biggest Worry is Rare 'Misbehavior Before the Enemy' Charge", The Cable Blog on Foreign Policy, March 30, 2015.


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