Officials: Bergdahl never intended to desert

645X363 - Defense Policy Player

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said he was not intending to desert his post in Afghanistan but instead wanted to walk to the nearest U.S. military post to report concerns about his unit, according to an Army report seen by U.S. officials.  

Bergdahl was planning to report problems with "order and discipline" in his unit and believed he could not trust his own commanders to deal with them, an unnamed senior defense official told CNN. 

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The report was part of a fact-finding investigation conducted by Army investigators that was presented to Army Gen. Mark Milley before he charged Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. 

"This was a kid who had leadership concerns on his mind," a second unnamed official told CNN. "He wasn't fed up, he wasn't planning to desert."

"I can't tell you if his concerns were valid, but in his mind they were," the official added.

Both officials said Bergdahl believed he could make it to the next base by relying on wilderness skills he learned growing up in rural Idaho.

Bergdahl's intent is expected to be part of his lawyer's defense of the 28-year-old Army sergeant as he faces an Article 32 hearing, which is a preliminary hearing to decide the next steps, including a potential court-martial. 

In a 13-page letter to the Army, Bergdahl's lawyer, Eugene Fidell, reportedly wrote that the report "basically concludes that Sgt. Bergdahl did not intend to remain away from the Army permanently." 

The letter also says the report concludes that Bergdahl's "specific intent was to bring what he thought were disturbing circumstances to the attention of the nearest general officer." 

The Army's report has not been released publicly.

CNN reported last year that a British filmmaker who was working in Afghanistan in 2009 filmed Bergdahl and other members of his platoon in Afghanistan, allegedly showing lax discipline. One sergeant was demoted and three others reassigned.