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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

World

Bergdahl not a war hero, but a deserter
Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times
Washington, June 03, 2014
First Published: 00:59 IST(3/6/2014)
Last Updated: 01:01 IST(3/6/2014)

Almost overnight, the freed American PoW has slipped from celebrity as a war hero into complete infamy as a deserter responsible for the death of his colleagues.

Demands are being raised by many in US military, including erstwhile colleagues, that he should be tried as a deserter as soon as he is pronounced medically fit for it.

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl’s release was announced by President Barack Obama on Friday — in exchange for five Taliban activists — kicking off celebrations that didn’t even last a day.

“This fundamental shift in US policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take US hostages,” said Mike Rogers, head of House intelligence committee. Other congress Republicans such as John McCain weighed in, saying he was worried “these individuals (the released Taliban) would have the ability to re-enter the fight”.

Soon, Bergdahl’s colleagues from his unit joined the outcry. Their problem was not with the policy aspect of the swap, but the man the United States went to such extents to free. The sergeant had become disillusioned with the war, accruing to his colleagues. While on guard duty at his unit’s post in Paktika province in Afghanistan, he just walked away.

It’s not clear how he fell into the hands of the insurgents.

In the search launched for him, his colleagues have said in US media reports, many soldiers died, falling victim to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) lying in wait for them.

“While searching for him, ambushes and IEDs picked up tremendously,” tweeted an unidentified soldier, who said he was on base then. “Enemy knew we would be coming.”

At least six soldiers were killed looking for Bergdahl, according to a report in the CNN, which detailed them out with names and locations in August-September 2009.

But US military doesn’t seem inclined to punishing Bergdahl. Five years in the captivity of Afghan insurgents, was enough punishment, an unidentified official has said.


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