BergdahlLike most Americans, I have followed the repatriation of Bowe Bergdahl with interest and no small amount of incredulity. The unfolding of these events is both painful and bizarre. I’m perhaps a step closer to this story than most in that as a former special operator, I have conducted POW recovery operations. I’ve spoken with special operators who took to the field in previous attempts to recover Bergdahl. I also live in Idaho about fifteen miles from the Bergdahl home. It might be helpful to look at these events on four levels.

On purely humanitarian considerations, it’s good that a young soldier is now free from the physical and mental trauma of captivity, and that his parents finally know that he is safe and being afforded the best medical attention in the world. And I’ve watched his hometown of Hailey, Idaho rejoice at his release. All good.

On a tactical and strategic level, our nation paid a very steep price for the release of this soldier. The five senior Taliban operatives that were set free to gain Bergdahl’s freedom are very dangerous men. They are zealots who are loyal to their cause, and will most certainly return to the fight and seek to kill other Americans. And not just Americans. A great many Afghans–members of the Afghan National Army, local security and police forces that we have trained, tribesmen, and tribal entities–stood with us against the Taliban. What happens to them? We understand that these freed Taliban leaders are to be held in check by Qatar authorities for a year. We also know that in a year’s time, we will significantly draw down our forces in Afghanistan–but not all. Those who remain will be at a significantly higher risk. And again, what about those loyal Afghans who at our urging, opposed the Taliban? I fear that in setting free these five hardcore Taliban leaders, we have released a plague that will descend on those Afghans who stood with us. It could result in a pogrom directed against our former allies and their families, and their blood will be on our hands. Furthermore, what message does this send to other nations around the world who look to us for help in dealing with extremist and al-Qaeda-inspired insurgencies? Not good at all, in fact a very dangerous precedent.

On a legal and political level, it would seem that the administration overstepped its authority in bypassing Congress and perhaps may have actually broken the law. And I felt our President used two very concerned and vulnerable parents improperly by pushing them into the national spotlight. This is highly emotional ground, and to put them in the middle of what was sure to become a most controversial issue was both insensitive and unprecedented. Bowe’s parents get a free pass on this one–they want their boy back. But for the President to use them as top cover for political reasons; definitely not good and bordering on unconscionable.

And finally there is the issue of Sergeant Bergdahl’s actions that may have led to his capture. One has only to turn on the TV to see the multiple allegations of impropriety. It’s a circus; it’s not pretty and does us all a disservice. Yet, one fact is clear to me. When he fell into Taliban hands, they knew the value of their find, and they exploited it masterfully to their own ends. As for the Sergeant’s actions, he needs to be treated, rehabilitated, afforded counsel, and awarded a court martial. If he is exonerated, then he should be afforded the respect and deference this nation extends to its warriors who, in the course of honorable service to their country, endure captivity. If his actions violated his oath as an American Soldier and the implied obligations our soldiers have for one another, then he needs to be held fully accountable. This is neither good nor bad, but it is responsible and just.




Posted by Dick Couch in Army, Foreign Policy, Tactics


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  • Awareguy

    As concise and objective an analysis as I have read on this topic. BZ

  • Boba Fett Army

    ‘On a legal and political level” … Any use of Guantanamo and “legal” is oxmoronic.

    • Bluesman125

      Are you sure you are using “oxmoronic”[sic) correctly? Because that word means two words used together that are seemingly incompatible. Are you implying that there is something illegal about Guantanamo?

      • totalitat

        I’m pretty sure that that’s exactly what he’s doing.

  • http://web.elastic.org/~fche/ Frank Ch. Eigler

    “it’s good that a young soldier is now free from the physical and mental trauma of captivity”

    In a way, one hopes that “captivity” was the right term, as opposed to something more voluntary.

    • EthanP

      I would point out that Sec of State Kerry as well as many left wing pundits have said quite clearly that the Afgans are on their own. Americans won’t be involved, they hope. And if these 5 serial killers help kill 10-20,000 Afgans, well that’s their problem

  • totalitat

    I fear that in setting free these five hardcore Taliban leaders, we have released a plague that will descend on those Afghans who stood with us

    So what’s your alternative?

  • Jersey Girl

    Don’t even get me started!! What ever happened to we don’t NEGOTIATE!!! NEVER!! No soldier would ever want this unless they were a TRAITOR!!! I believe and have always believed that a US President should serve time in our military to understand that it we have rules for war for a reason!! Every soldier knows that!! Why in the world would we give back terrorists? Not one little one… But 5 HIGH RANKING TERRORISTS!!! What good can come from that? This soldier deserted his fellow soldiers and our country!! He wasn’t tortured like our poor POW’s are! Read the facts!! Listen to other POW’s and the families of the soldiers who lost their lives trying to save this traitor!! The Taliban were upset that they didn’t get to shake hands with him when he left… REALLY??? Does that sound hostile. It’s on video if you want to look it up. I’m sure these 5 lovely terrorists are going back and will send us a pie to thank us!! Tell that to the POW’s and the MIA’s still out there!! We have now compromised our country thanks to one questionable soldier. I’m happy he is home and safe, but at what price….. Sorry that in 5 years he forgot how to speak English also! Maybe his first words he should learn should be sorry to all the families and soldiers who lost their loved ones,lives, limbs, and almost lost their life, to save him after he left on his own life!!

    • Jeff Berry

      Unfortunately we DO NEGOTIATE for POW release. Remember our POWs held in North Vietnam! We negotiated then and we will always do that. “Be I the lone survivor, I will NEVER ABANDON a fallen comrade…”

      When the dust settles this soldier will have to account for his actions, or the lack thereof.

  • Margaret

    I believe on many levels this is a no win situation. Yes, this guy is free but at what cost? Obama saying we don’t leave anyone behind–ask any Special Operator and this is true. It is also true that Special Forces will go in and retrieve soldiers.

    BUT WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE FOR PRISONERS. And that’s exactly what Obama’s done. Our world has just gotten that much more dangerous because the US will now negotiate.

    And setting Taliban soldiers loose? Obama’s gone wonker’s.

    If this is innocent of leaving his post that will come out in any trial. But there an awful lot of people who are saying he left his post. And the fact that he was just a kid really isn’t an excuse. He was trained that he was too stay on his post till he was relieved–why? so no insurgencts could break through.

    I’d have to be better versed in military law on this thought. Does the fact that he was a P.O.W. And his movements obviously restricted–should any of that time be considered for time served? Say he’s Court Martialed and they say 10 years prison–does he get 5 years credit or does that time start from the day of his release?

    I don’t know if he’s eligible for the death penalty. If other soldiers died as a result of searching for him and he deserted–this becomes a very sad situation indeed. I think others who are better versed in the law can explain these dynamics far better than I.

  • Donny

    Good points!!

  • Dan O’Shea

    Thoughtful analysis – balanced and on target on every level. BZ

  • James Myers

    I’m willing to respect the results of a court-martial.

  • Suzy

    And, now, what’s to become of KSM! Are we being set up for his release, also?

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