The Blog

Fellow Soldiers: Bergdahl Deserted

7:00 AM, Jun 2, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

His disappearance translated into daily search missions across the entire Afghanistan theater of operations, particularly ours. The combat platoons in our battalion spent the next month on daily helicopter-insertion search missions (called "air assaults") trying to scour villages for signs of him. Each operations would send multiple platoons and every enabler available in pursuit: radio intercept teams, military working dogs, professional anthropologists used as intelligence gathering teams, Afghan sources in disguise. They would be out for at least twenty-four hours. I know of some who were on mission for ten days at a stretch. In July, the temperature was well above one hundred degrees Fahrenheit each day.

These cobbled-together units' task was to search villages one after another. They often took rifle and mortar fire from insurgents, or perhaps just angry locals. They intermittently received resupply from soot-coated Mi-17s piloted by Russian contractors, many of whom were Soviet veterans of Afghanistan. It was hard, dirty and dangerous work. The searches enraged the local civilian population and derailed the counterinsurgency operations taking place at the time. At every juncture I remember the soldiers involved asking why we were burning so much gasoline trying to find a guy who had abandoned his unit in the first place. The war was already absurd and quixotic, but the hunt for Bergdahl was even more infuriating because it was all the result of some kid doing something unnecessary by his own volition.

Also at the Daily Beast, Josh Rogin reports the exchange of the Taliban Five for Bergdahl may be the "first step" in an effort by the Obama administration to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay without consulting Congress:

In his 2014 State of the Union address, Obama promised to shutter the prison built on Cuban soil by the end of the year. Obama now has seven months to fulfill his latest promise to shut down Guantanamo—or come as close to it as he can. During that time, Congress will be unable to prevent the release of the 149 prisoners still there.

“This whole deal may have been a test to see how far the administration can actually push it, and if Congress doesn’t fight back they will feel more empowered to move forward with additional transfers,” said one senior GOP senate aide close to the issue. “They’ve lined up all the dominoes to be able to move a lot more detainees out of Guantanamo and this could be just the beginning.”

On Saturday, only three days after announcing the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2017, the White House revealed that it was releasing the Taliban commanders in exchange for Bergdahl. The law requires 30 days’ advance Congressional notification before such a release from Guantanamo. But it was simply not workable in this case, White House officials, said; the soldier’s health was failing, and the Qatari-brokered deal for the prisoner swap unfolded too quickly.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers