Pentagon Spokesman: 'Doesn't Matter' How Bergdahl Ended Up With Taliban

June 3, 2014 - 6:18 AM

bergdahl

President Obama joins Bob and Jani Bergdahl, parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, on Saturday, May 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) - Was Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, as some of his platoon mates told Fox News Monday night?

"It doesn't matter how he was taken captive," press reports quoted a Pentagon spokesman as saying. "It doesn't matter under what circumstances he left. It doesn't matter what his persuasions were, political or otherwise. We have an obligation to recover all of those who are missing in action," Rear Adm. John Kirby was quoted as saying on Monday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney took a similar line.

"The first and foremost thing that we have to recognize here is that Sergeant Bergdahl was in captivity for five years, held against his will, and it was absolutely the right thing to do, consistent with our tradition in the United States, to secure his return," Carney told reporters at the White House on Monday.

Carney said the Defense Department will continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's captivity. And Carney repeatedly noted that the U.S. has a history of negotiating the release of its prisoners of war.

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

But the Associated Press reported that a Pentagon investigation found "incontrovertible" evidence in 2010 that Bergdahl walked away from his unit, although he was never formally accused of desertion.

One of Bergdahl's platoon mates told Fox News's Megyn Kelly Monday night he doesn't want to see Bergdahl hailed as a hero: "I just want him to face the consequences of his own actions, and possibly face a court marshal for desertion," Gerald Sutton said.

"Yes, I do believe he deserted without a doubt in my mind," Cody Full, another member of Bergdahl's platoon, told Kelly. "He did not serve the United States with honor. We all took an oath. He violated his oath when he deserted us and put other Americans in jeopardy."

At least six American soldiers died, reportedly while looking for Bergdahl. "I can't prove that he caused deaths," Full said. "What I can prove is those soldiers would not have been there at that location that they died or were severely injured. There is a high probability that they would not be there looking for him if he didn't desert, because then we wouldn't have a mission to find him."

On Monday morning, Pentagon spokesman Kelly said, "We still don't have the complete picture of what caused him (Bergdahl) to leave his base that night." Kirby said he doesn't know the "status" of that investigation -- "whether it's complete or whether they figured that out."

"I don't think right now that we know exactly what was in his mind when he left that post. But let's not forget he was held captive as a prisoner for five years, five years by himself. That's a pretty high price to pay for whatever impelled him to walk off that base. And the mantra is we're going to not leave any soldier behind. We don't qualify that. He's an American sergeant in the U.S. Army and we're not going to leave him behind, and we didn't," Kirby told CNN.

At the White House Monday, Carney was asked if Susan Rice spoke the truth when she said Bergdahl had served with "honor and distinction."

"Well, I would certainly refer you to the Defense Department," Carney said. "The fact of the matter is he was held captive by an enemy force in an armed conflict with the United States and our allies for five years, and consistent with centuries of past practice, we sought and -- sought to recover him and successfully recovered him."

Asked if President Obama stands by Susan Rice's comments, Carney replied, "The president -- the president stands by -- stands by actions that he took as commander in chief to secure the release of the only member of the U.S. military held as a POW from either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. It was absolutely the right thing to do."

Carney said the prisoner swap -- Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo Bay -- "was done after the appropriate consideration and analysis, and it was the judgment of the secretary of defense, in coordination with the entire national security team, that there was sufficient mitigation in place and assurances in place to allow the exchange."