The Special Ops veteran who broke the story
in January that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl would be charged as a deserter for abandoning his post in Afghanistan in 2009 says the investigation that finally yielded those charges on Wednesday survived heavy interference from a highly politicized and strategically stupid White House.
"It was a fair process, it was a very thorough process, and the Army, thank goodness, did not cave to the political pressure brought to bear on them by the White House," author, security analyst and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV
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The "undue command influence" started with President Barack Obama announcing Bergdahl's return last May 31 in the Rose Garden with Bergdahl's parents at his side, said Shaffer.
Captured by the Taliban after leaving his base and held for five years, Bergdahl was freed in a controversial U.S. deal with the militants, who got five of their own released from Guantanamo Bay in return. The administration hailed Bergdahl's homecoming as as success story and proof of America's resolve to leave no troops behind.
But that narrative clashed with the story told by several Bergdahl platoon mates, who accused him of desertion
when the prisoner swap was announced. Bergdahl was reported to have voiced doubts about the war in Afghanistan shortly before he disappeared.
The White House promoted a different story. National Security Adviser Susan Rice
told ABC News in June that Berghdahl served "with honor and distinction." Shaffer said that Rice's deputy, Ben Rhodes, worked furiously to keep imminent desertion charges from becoming public in order to protect the president from a humiliation.
Shaffer said last week that Bergdahl was being offered a plea deal in order to avoid a lengthy trial that might further embarrass the Obama administration.
That offer appears to be off the table now.
"He tried to barter the intelligence that he supposedly gave the government in his debriefing," Shaffer said of Bergdahl. "I don't think there's any plea bargain in the offing at this point and time."
Bergdahl is charged
with desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty, and misbehavior before the enemy, the Army announced Wednesday, referring the case for a preliminary hearing ahead of a possible military court-martial.
Desertion is punishable by life in prison, and misbehavior before the enemy carries the possibility of the death penalty. But news reports citing unnamed defense officials have suggested that Bergdahl is unlikely to be put to death if convicted, and that his five years in harsh captivity might be considered a mitigating factor in any sentence he would receive.
"The bottom line is this: People died because of Bergdahl's bad behavior," said Shaffer.
"The motivation behind his behavior, that's not for discussion at this point and time," he said. "The point is, he walked away willingly from his post in the middle of combat. This was a combat mission where people were actively out trying to do counterterrorism operations.
"What's worse here is that there were five U.S. service members killed in the line of duty trying to find Bergdahl," he said. "Plus, I was contacted this morning by one of the senior intelligence officers who was involved in the search for Bergdahl and he reminded me that several British soldiers as well died in the effort to recover Bergdahl.
"This wasn't just the U.S. military, this was the coalition forces as well," said Shaffer, who served in Afghanistan after 9/11 and wrote a controversial tell-all memoir, "Operation Dark Heart."
Bergdahl, by his actions, also precipitated the release of "five Taliban senior leaders who by all accounts have not given up violence," said Shaffer, adding, "three of [them] are now in contact or attempting to contact the Taliban so they can roll back in."
Shaffer said the trade exemplified this administration's blinkered military strategy and foreign policy.
"The five Taliban leaders should've been used to call for a ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government," and as "leverage to push the Taliban back into the negotiation process to resolve the current war," he said.
"He didn't do that," Shaffer said of Obama. "He literally gave up five pieces of gold for one piece of tin in the form of Bergdahl. It was a bad decision. President Obama and his national security team are way outclassed by everybody else out there, and you're seeing the results of really bad thinking … and bad foreign policy."
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