Former Bergdahl roommate: Charge him with desertion

A former Army soldier who served with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said he should be charged with desertion, accusing him of abandoning his post in Afghanistan.

"The facts tell me that Bergdahl's desertion was pre-meditated," Former Army Spc. Cody Full told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade on Wednesday. "Knowing that someone you needed to trust deserted you in war and did it by his own free will is the ultimate betrayal."

ADVERTISEMENT
At the hearing, Full said Bergdahl was a “good soldier” at first, but changed starkly after his deployment.

Full said when he shared a room with Bergdahl in 2008, “he was on time, in the right uniform, taking notes and asking questions.”

He said Bergdahl spoke about how he "wanted to kill as many Taliban as he could." 

After they deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, however, Full said Bergdahl began to voice disagreements over the way their missions were being led, and said he didn't understand why the unit was doing "more humanitarian aid drops, setting up clinics, and helping the populous instead of hunting the Taliban."

Full said Bergdahl falsely wrote to his father that the unit had run over children in the streets, and spoke of wanting to do more to help the Afghan people — the exact opposite of what he was telling his fellow soldiers in the field. 

Bergdahl was held hostage by the Taliban for nearly five years and finally freed earlier this month in a controversial prisoner swap. President Obama’s decision to trade five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl sparked controversy.

The military is also investigating Bergdahl’s disappearance and subsequent capture by the Taliban after accusations he deserted.

About a week before his platoon would leave their outpost, Bergdahl shipped his personal items home, according to Full. The day they were scheduled to leave, Bergdahl was gone. 

"In the single man tent Bergdahl had been sleeping in we found his gun, ammo and plate carrier," said Full. 

He said the unit launched an effort to locate the missing soldier.

"Patrols were immediately kicked out in the surrounding areas to look for Bergdahl,” he said. “According to some school children we spoke to, they had seen a single American matching Bergdahl's description crawling low on the ground through the reeds earlier in the day on their way to school.

"A couple of days later, we heard over the radio via our interpreter that there was an American looking for someone in the Afghan village who spoke English. The witness said he needed some water and wanted to talk to the Taliban," Full added.

Full said if Bergdahl is discharged from the Army with an honorable discharge it would be a “slap in the face to all of us," adding that the former POW would be entitled to backpay. 

Lawmakers seized on Full’s testimony to slam the Obama administration’s decision to trade five Taliban for Bergdahl. 

"We've replenished the enemy in wartime," said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a former military lawyer.

He said the administration had sought to "divert the public's attention from the price that we paid,” by having Obama announce Bergdahl’s release at a Rose Garden event with the solider’s parents.

"They had to inflate his service in order to do that," he added, referring to National Security Advisor Susan Rice's comments that Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.”

Michael Waltz, a New America Foundation senior fellow, who commanded a U.S. Army Special Forces unit which looked for Bergdahl, also criticized the prisoner exchange.

"The enemy walked away happy, and received exactly what they asked for," he said. 

Waltz said there were a number of lower level detainees Bergdahl could have been swapped for instead, or that more pressure could have been applied to Pakistan, where Bergdahl was believed to be held for some time. 

"There were a number of other options on the table," Waltz said. 

Andy Andrews, who also testified said others have told him that his son, 2nd Lt. Darryn Deen Andrews, was killed while on a mission to find Bergdahl. Andrews said he would not have made a similar trade to bring his son back. 

"If my son had been a deserter, then absolutely not. But my son was a man of honor," he said. 

This story was last updated at 6:07 p.m.