President Barack Obama called the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after five years' captivity in Afghanistan "a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield," but some of his fellow soldiers are continuing to claim he deserted his post in 2009.
Javier Ortiz, for one. The Army combat medic told the Washington Post he believes Bergdahl should be tried for desertion. Former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl's platoon when he went missing, told CNN, "Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him."
And Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served with Bergdahl, wrote that he "was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down" in a recent column for the Daily Beast.
Bergdahl was exchanged for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Saturday, after months of negotiation led by the government of Qatar. Republicans, among them specifically Sen. John McCain, questioned whether the U.S. got the best of that deal, referring to the former Gitmo detainees as the "hardest of the hard core."
The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture have been murky for years. Some reports said he was captured while sitting on a makeshift latrine. Others said Bergdahl simply left his post and never returned.
There are also reports of emails Bergdahl sent to his parents before he was captured that express his disillusionment with America's presence in Afghanistan, and that he was considering deserting. Those emails were published by Rolling Stone in 2012, but could not be authenticated by the Associated Press, according to CBS News.
CNN reports that at least six soldiers lost their lives while searching for Bergdahl.
While speaking to reporters on Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment on whether the military would pursue any disciplinary actions against Bergdahl.
"Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health and getting him reunited with his family," Hagel said. "Other circumstances that may develop and questions — those will be dealt with later."
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