POW's disillusioned emails to family suggest he deserted
Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — Disillusionment with the war coupled with rage at how the Army operates may have driven Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American servicemember held captive in Afghanistan, to desert his base and fall into the custody of the Taliban.
That’s the contention of an article in the June 21 edition of Rolling Stone that’s based on interviews with Bergdahl’s family and access to private emails that Bergdahl, now 26, reportedly sent before he disappeared on June 30, 2009.The Pentagon has never presented a detailed account of Bergdahl’s disappearance, but he is not classified as a deserter and has been promoted twice while held in captivity.
“Our focus is on getting him back home and getting him to his family, not trying to figure out how it was that he got taken,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said Friday. “Every day there is time, attention and sometimes substantial resources applied to trying to locate and identify where he is.”
Bergdahl’s release was the objective of recent U.S. negotiations concerning a prisoner swap deal with the Taliban, but the talks have since broken down and Bergdahl’s family, who live in Idaho, criticized the government for not doing more to win his release.
In an emotional email following the combat death of a popular officer in his battalion, Bergdahl blasted the U.S. military and wrote that abusive and “brown nosing” superiors prospered, while the few sergeants he respected were leaving the Army.
“The system is wrong,” he wrote. “I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools.”
In another part of the email, Bergdahl mentions an Afghan child being run over by a U.S. military vehicle, an episode his parents believe he witnessed and which may have scarred him deeply. Later in the email, Bergdahl writes “The horror that is America is disgusting.”
Michael Hastings, the story’s author, also penned the 2010 behind-the-scenes Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. The piece quoted the general and his top aides mocking top Obama administration officials, prompting McChrystal’s resignation and retirement.
Bowe Bergdahl’s father, Bob, responded to his son’s bitter complaints with an email under the subject line, “OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE.”
Three days later, Hastings writes, Bergdahl asked his team leader if he could take “sensitive equipment” should he decide to leave the base. The team leader reportedly told him he shouldn’t take his rifle or night-vision goggles off the base.
Then Bergdahl — who some soldiers have described as having a “survivalist” mentality — gathered other supplies and disappeared, determined to walk to Pakistan, miles away and over a tall range of mountains, according to Hastings.
Within hours, multiple manned and remotely piloted aircraft were searching for Bergdahl, whose whereabouts had suddenly become the primary mission in a major portion of eastern Afghanistan. The following day, intercepted Taliban communications indicated Bergdahl had been captured by insurgents.
In the years since, The Taliban have released several propaganda videos showing Bergdahl criticizing the Afghanistan war and pleading for his freedom.