Waltz Presses Biden Administration for Review of Bergdahl Trial
Washington, July 28, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, U.S. Congressmen and veterans Mike Waltz (FL-6), Dan Crenshaw (TX-2), and Jake Ellzey (TX-6) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding an immediate review of options for a new trial for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. The letter follows Tuesday’s decision by Judge Reggie B. Walton to vacate the court-martial convictions against Bergdahl in October 2017.
In June 2009, Bowe Bergdahl deserted his firebase in Afghanistan. He was quickly captured and held by militants linked to the Haqqani network. It has been estimated that as many as eight Americans died attempting to find Sergeant Bergdahl in the weeks after his desertion. In 2014, Bergdahl was subsequently released after the Obama Administration exchanged five senior Taliban leaders imprisoned at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay.
You can read the full letter below:
Dear Secretary Austin and Attorney General Garland:
We write today to demand your immediate review of the options for a new trial for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Sergeant Bergdahl pled guilty in 2017 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, endangering the American troops who searched for him. In that process, some of those soldiers were reportedly killed.
On Tuesday, July 25, 2023, Judge Reggie B. Walton of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the court-martial convictions against Bergdahl after October 2017. Colonel Jeffrey Nance, who oversaw Bergdahl’s 2017 court-martial, was the same judge who had also sentenced Bergdahl to time served, overriding Army recommendations and allowing him to leave the courtroom a free man. This is a deeply concerning lapse of justice and one of a pattern of disturbing efforts to whitewash and even celebrate the exchange of Bergdahl for terrorists. After a Rose Garden ceremony on May 31, 2014, inconceivably held to celebrate Bergdahl’s return, President Obama’s national security advisor Susan Rice said he had served “with honor and distinction.”
In June 2009, Sergeant Bergdahl walked off his firebase in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. This occurred at the height of the conflict, with combat incidents rising rapidly and additional troops being deployed. Under President Obama’s Afghan “surge,” the U.S. would attempt to decisively shift the war’s course by disrupting Taliban networks in places like Paktika and Helmand while expanding security around population centers. For the five years of his confinement, Bergdahl was reportedly held by militants linked to the Haqqani network, one of the most capable and extreme factions of the Taliban and the one most linked to jihadist groups like al-Qaeda. The leader of that group, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is currently the acting interior minister of the Taliban government.
It has been estimated that as many as eight Americans died attempting to find Sergeant Bergdahl in the weeks after his desertion on June 30, 2009. During that period, a huge number of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets in Paktika province were mobilized to search for Bergdahl, with no success. Some of the Taliban attacks during that time, particularly on isolated outposts like the U.S. firebase at Zerok, were believed by survivors to have been more lethal because of the commitment of resources to find Bergdahl.
In 2014, Bergdahl was released after the Obama Administration traded five senior Taliban leaders imprisoned at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay. This included hardened militants who went on to assume leadership roles in the Taliban.
Bergdahl’s actions endangered and potentially got his comrades killed. In consultation with the Department of Justice, we urge you to examine the options to order a new trial as expeditiously as possible. This outcome dishonors those who served and died alongside Bergdahl, and by omission condoning such behavior, puts the lives of future American soldiers in peril.