By Debbie Gregory.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, who led the investigation of Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture in Afghanistan, said he doesn’t think the Army sergeant should go to prison.
Bergdahl alleges that he walked away from his post as part of a plan to express his concerns about his unit’s leadership. While Dahl admits Bergdahl’s concerns were off the mark, “he felt it was his duty to intervene,” said Dahl.
It’s alleged that Bergdahl’s plan was to travel the 19 miles from his post to the forward operating base, sparking a search and creating a “PR event” to catch the attention of someone at the top of the chain of command.
Instead of reaching his destination, Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban. His capture and eventual release cost the U.S. five Taliban commanders as part of a prisoner exchange. It also cost his fellow soldiers a grueling and dangerous 45-day search.
Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The outcome of his Article 32 hearing will help determine if he will face a court-martial.
The prisoner exchange, contrary to U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists, drew a lot of public criticism.
At the hands of his captors, Bergdahl was beaten and kept in a cage for three years, and attempted to escape on multiple occasions.
“Nobody knows Sgt. Bergdahl’s story,” said Terrence Russell, senior program manager for the Joint Personnel Recovery Center’s Defense Department office. The former Air Force survival instructor, who has done 125 debriefings with former hostages and POWs from the Gulf War on, said, “I hope someday the world gets to understand how difficult Sgt. Bergdahl had it.”
Bergdahl has several injuries that were more than likely caused by being kept in a crouched position for extended periods.
Bergdahl’s lead attorney, Eugene Fidell, said Bergdahl never intended to avoid his duty and that his case should be treated like a one-day AWOL stint, which he said carries a penalty of 30 days’ confinement.
If Bergdahl is tried and convicted of the misbehavior before the enemy charge, he could get life in prison.
The presiding officer will forward his recommendations to Gen. Robert Abrams, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command. Abrams will decide whether the case should be referred to a court-martial or be resolved in another manner.