One of Barack Obama’s big, albeit illegal, accomplishments of 2014 included the release of United States soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in 2009 at the age of 23. Events surrounding his disappearance include allegations that Private First Class Bergdahl walked off his military base in secret and was subsequently captured by enemy forces. Just days before his disappearance, Bergdahl is reported to have sent an E-Mail to his parents saying that he was, “Ashamed to be an American.” Six American soldiers were killed during the search for Bergdahl, and the cause of their deaths range from IED explosions, to gunfire to the head, to land mines.
Bergdahl was promoted twice during his captivity. The first happened in 2010 when his rank was increased from Private First Class to Specialist. In 2011, Bergdahl was again promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
Because of the unusual circumstances regarding the capture of the American soldier, the negotiations that the Obama administration have made with the Taliban have since come under intense scrutiny.
Obama ignored the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, a law that the president signed into place, that would prevent the exchange of prisoners without giving Congress at least a thirty-day notice.
According to a report from the Committee on Armed Services, the administration gave Congress a two and a half hour notice of the exchange.
In addition to the illegitimacy aspect, the trade itself seemed unfairly unbalanced as well. The Taliban were to receive five senior leaders in exchange for one American soldier who now stands charged with desertion and misconduct before the enemy.
The Armed Services report points out that the Taliban Five, as they have been referred to, were considered by the Obama administration’s own admission, to be too dangerous to release or transfer. The report speculates that the reason the administration chose these five was an effort to get rid of the worst of the worst so that they would not be a problem later on when Obama attempted to fulfill his promise of closing Guantanamo Bay.
The Obama administration has also, through the law of unintended consequences, ensured that future American soldiers will be captured and held for ransom by terrorist organizations.
In a Time Magazine interview, a Taliban commander spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said,
“It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people… It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.”
A preliminary hearing officer recommended that Bergdahl’s case be heard by a misdemeanor-level military court, but the military has disregarded that suggestion and Bergdahl will now face charges in a general court-martial.
The charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. In addition to this, if found guilty, Bergdahl will be dishonorably discharged, forfeit the ranks earned while in captivity, and lose all back pay that was owed to him.
Bergdahl’s defense maintains that the soldier left his military base in an attempt to bring, what he considered, disturbing circumstances to the attention of senior Army officials.