McChrystal Defends Bergdahl, Asks America to Wait for the Facts

Thursday, 05 Jun 2014 08:03 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Americans should not judge Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his disappearance until they know all the facts, says retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who defends the dangerous and extensive search efforts for the soldier after he went missing.

"We're going to have to wait and talk to Sgt. Bergdahl now and get his side of the story," McChrystal said in an interview with Yahoo News on Wednesday. "One of the great things about America is we should not judge until we know the facts. And after we know the facts, then we should make a mature judgment on how we should handle it."

McChrystal, a four-star general who led the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq during the Persian Gulf Wars and was top Commander of American forces in Afghanistan when Bergdahl went missing in June 2009, now chairs the Leadership Council of the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, which promotes national service among American youth.

"After Sgt. Bergdahl, then Pvt. Bergdahl went missing, we did a huge number of operations to try to stop the Taliban from being able to move him across the border into Pakistan," the retired general said. "And we made a great effort and put a lot of people at risk in doing that, but that’s what you should do. That’s what soldiers do for each other."

McChrystal also defended the controversial prisoner swap, in which five Taliban commanders were traded for Bergdahl's release, a decision that has drawn sharp criticism among Congress members from both parties who are angry because lawmakers were not involved before President Barack Obama issued the order.

In addition, many in the military who were involved in the search for Bergdahl say he deserted his post and that at least six soldiers died as a result.

"We don’t leave Americans behind. That’s unequivocal," McChrystal said of the exchange. "There will be a lot of discussion on whether the mechanism for getting Sgt. Bergdahl back was right — and I’ll leave it to people to argue that."

The entire issue, McChrystal said, brings up the issue of "responsibility and service," noting that Bergdahl had a responsibility to his fellow soldiers, but as a nation, the United States has a responsibility to the members of the military.

McChrystal spoke to Yahoo from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he headlined a summit for the Franklin Project on national service Wednesday.  Earlier this week, he advocated for all young people between the ages of 18 and 28 to perform a year of national service.

In a piece published by Politico, McChrystal wrote that a year of culturally expected, if not legally required, "challenging, meaningful" national service is "the big idea of our time" and would be mutually beneficial for both young people and the country.

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