More on the Bowe Bergdahl Story

I am beginning to sense a certain theme:

A soldier claims that he was told by his chain of command to not say anything about Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walking off an Afghan base in 2009.

Retired Army Spc. Josh Fuller told Fox News Wednesday that he was told to keep quiet about Bergdahl leaving his post and getting captured by the Taliban.

“We had all known that he had deserted his post and there was never anything about him getting captured or a POW until a little while later when it came down from the chain-of-command that we needed to keep quiet about it, not say anything and that we’re going with the narrative that he’s captured,” Fuller told Fox News.

Fuller, who stated that Bergdahl pretty much kept to himself and didn’t socialize with other soldiers, said that attacks on the base increased after Army sergeant left.

“Whenever he went and walked off the base, only stuff that we know, that we trained for, that the sports that we know on vehicles, how are moves are, stuff like that, they were getting hit very precisely,” Fuller explained to Fox News.

“And the ambushes we used, the certain tactics that we used, the Taliban was picking up on those things and the Haqqani network started using the same things as well.

“So they were very precise and very accurate. You could tell it was somebody on the inside that had that info.”

More:

Three former members of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday about Bergdahl’s disappearance, his freedom and how he should be treated now that he’s out. The interviews were facilitated by a public relations firm, Capitol Media Partners, co-owned by Republican strategist Richard Grenell. All three men said Bergdahl should be investigated for desertion. Army Secretary John McHugh said Tuesday that after Bergdahl has recovered, the Army will “review” the circumstances of his disappearance.

Joshua Cornelison, 25, who was a medic in the platoon:

Cornelison said Bergdahl was unusually reluctant to talk to fellow soldiers about his personal life or his background.

“He was very, very quiet. He kept everything very close to the vest,” Cornelison said, speaking from Sacramento, California. “So, after he actually left, the following morning we realized we have Bergdahl’s weapon, we have Bergdahl’s body armor, we have Bergdahl’s sensitive equipment (but) we don’t have Bowe Bergdahl.” At that point, Cornelison said, it occurred to him that Bergdahl was “that one guy that wanted to disappear, and now he’s gotten his wish.”

Cornelison, who completed his Army service in 2012, said he believes Bergdahl should be held accountable.

“Bowe Bergdahl needs to be held 100 percent accountable for all of his irresponsibility and all of his actions. He willfully deserted his post and he needs to be held accountable for that,” he said.

Still more:

Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow was the team leader with Bowe Bergdahl the night Bergdahl disappeared.

“Bergdahl is a deserter, and he’s not a hero,” says Buetow. “He needs to answer for what he did.”

Within days of his disappearance, says Buetow, teams monitoring radio chatter and cell phone communications intercepted an alarming message: The American is in Yahya Khel (a village two miles away). He’s looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban.

“I heard it straight from the interpreter’s lips as he heard it over the radio,” said Buetow. “There’s a lot more to this story than a soldier walking away.”

The Army will review the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “in a comprehensive, coordinated effort,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Tuesday.

The review will include speaking with Bergdahl “to better learn from him the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity,” he said.

The night Bergdahl disappeared, says Buetow, the platoon was at a small outpost, consisting of two bunkers and a perimeter of military trucks. Buetow was in one of the bunkers, and Bergdahl was supposed to be in a tent by one of the trucks.

Then a call came through on the radio.

“I’ll never forget that line, ‘Has anyone seen Bergdahl?'” says Buetow.

Oh, look. More:

Among the most tantalizing mysteries surrounding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s departure from his U.S. military base in 2009 is this: Was he trying to find the Taliban? Or did he simply wander away and get captured? Politicians and members of the military have criticized the Obama administration’s decision to swap five jailed Taliban leaders for Bergdahl, saying the soldier may have deserted.

Until now, few details have emerged about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance from his base. But The Washington Post has reached Afghan villagers who spotted Bergdahl shortly after he slipped away from his base. To them, it’s clear something was wrong with the American. And he seemed to be deliberately heading for Taliban strongholds, they say.

“It was very confusing to us. Why would he leave the base?” said Jamal, an elder in the village of Yusef Khel, about a half-mile from the American military installation. (Like many Afghans, he goes by only one name). “The people thought it was a covert agenda – maybe he was sent to the village by the U.S.”

Locals remember Bergdahl walking through the village in a haze. They later told Afghan investigators that they had warned the American that he was heading into a dangerous area.

“They tried to tell him not to go there, that it is dangerous. But he kept going over the mountain. The villagers tried to give him water and bread, but he didn’t take it,” said Ibrahim Manikhel, the district’s intelligence chief.

“We think he probably was high after smoking hashish,” Manikhel said. “Why would an American want to find the Taliban?”

And of course, the response to all of this from the Obama administration is less-than-impressive:

White House aides are accusing soldiers who served with Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are “swift boating” him following his release over the weekend after five years in captivity.

NBC News’ Chuck Todd reported Monday that the White House did not expect this sort of vitriolic backlash exchanging five high-level Taliban members held at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, who left his Army post in 2009 in Afghanistan and was subsequently taken captive.

“They did not expect this backlash on Bergdahl himself,” Todd reported on NBC’s “Today.” I’ve had a few aides describe it to me as we didn’t know that they were going to ‘swift boat’ Bergdahl. And that’s a reference to that political fight back in 2004 over John Kerry’s military service.”

Just to be clear, we have multiple accounts that Bergdahl deserted his post in violation of the rules found in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the White House response is that anyone who brings up this issue is “swift boating.” The mind reels. Query: Are the Afghan villagers who were quoted above and who have validated concerns that Bergdahl deserted also “swift boating”? Will we soon be confronted by the accusation that the Republican party has political operatives posing as Afghan villagers and engaged in all kinds of dirty tricks?

Look, I am perfectly well prepared to believe that Bowe Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty. And even if he is guilty, I am prepared to believe that he acted out of stupidity. Given the time he spent as a captive of the Taliban, I would fully and completely understand if his sentence were commuted so that he serves no jail time. And finally, I accept entirely the Obama administration’s argument–and that of the military–that we leave no service man or woman behind and that any and every reasonable effort must be made to rescue an American soldier, sailor, pilot or Marine who is being held captive by enemy forces.

But the evidence that Bergdahl deserted is piling up. To deny that things at least look bad for Bergdahl is to deny reality itself. And as I wrote in my original post, it is entirely appropriate to denounce the prisoner exchange that was made for Bergdahl as being contrary to the best interests of American national security policy. It is entirely appropriate to denounce the Obama administration’s violation of law in failing to inform Congress. And it is entirely appropriate to denounce a possible desertion of post, and the deaths of American soldiers that alleged desertion may have led to.