Bill Kristol: Take Soldiers' Anger Over Bergdahl Seriously

Monday, 02 Jun 2014 10:23 AM

By Wanda Carruthers

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The anger of released POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's fellow soldiers should be taken seriously, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol said, because there are questions surrounding where he was when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2009.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Bergdahl was captured "on the battlefield" and that he had "served the United States with honor and distinction.

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Kristol argued there were conflicting reports that Bergdahl had deserted or was AWOL at the time he was apprehended.

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"There's a lot of reporting that he wasn't taken in battle. He seems to have deserted, or at least gone AWOL. He may have cooperated with the enemy after they captured him. Soldiers died trying to find him," Kristol told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday.

Bergdahl, now 28, was released after nearly five years in captivity in Afghanistan. For his release, U.S. officials exchanged five detainees who had been held at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The agreement calls for the five released detainees to remain in Qatar for a year, according to Reuters.

Kristol said Bergdahl's platoon also experienced "a lot more attacks after [Bergdahl] was taken."

He explained why Bergdahl's fellow soldiers were angry about the release.

"The degree of anger among soldiers on email is unbelievable. That needs to be taken seriously. Those are the people who fought in the same company, in some cases, and feel like they sacrificed to get this guy back who may have behaved, at best, irresponsibly, and at worst, worse," he said.

Kristol also questioned why the Army had required soldiers to sign nondisclosure agreements "about what had happened." He asked, "Who's heard of such a thing?"

Brian Schweitzer, former Democratic governor of Montana and potential contender for president in 2016, called Bergdahl "an American warrior," and told the "Morning Joe" panel on Monday that the focus needs to be on welcoming him home.

"Let's get the young man home. Let's celebrate that he gets to go back to his family," Schweitzer said. "Are you suggesting that one American is not worth five of these Taliban people who lived in a cave before we arrived?"

"At least six Americans were killed looking for Bergdahl. If this guy was AWOL or a deserter, I have a real problem with now giving away five Taliban terrorists to get him back," Kristol responded.

Michael Leiter, NBC News national security analyst and former director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, told the "Morning Joe" panel Monday that the U.S. relationship with Qatar was such that there was a probability the five released Taliban leaders would indeed be monitored.

"I think for the first year we can have some confidence that these guys will be watched," Leiter said.

However, after a year, Leiter predicted it was "very, very likely that these five guys, who were really senior commanders in defense and intelligence in regional provinces, that they will be back working with the Taliban."

Leiter said releasing the five terrorist leaders would end up "strengthening the Taliban." He also agreed there were questions about how Bergdahl was captured that needed to be answered.

"There are some real questions here. I think it's a little too early to impugn the sergeant's integrity. But I'm quite sure there's going to be some questions and investigations when he gets back," Leiter said.

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