The Slatest

A Soldier From Freed Hostage Bowe Bergdahl’s Unit Says Bergdahl Was a Deserter

A sign in Bowe Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Saturday the Taliban released Bowe Bergdahl, the only known remaining prisoner of war from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, in exchange for five prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl had been missing since 2009, and the circumstances of his disappearance had been disputed. But today in The Daily Beast, a soldier from Bergdahl’s battalion writes that Bergdahl abandoned his unit on purpose, perhaps with the intention of walking to India. “Bergdahl was a deserter,” Nathan Bradley Bethea says, “and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”


Make no mistake: Bergdahl did not “lag behind on a patrol,” as was cited in news reports at the time. There was no patrol that night. Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I’ve talked to members of Bergdahl’s platoon—including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I’ve reviewed the relevant documents. That’s what happened.

Bethea names several soldiers who, he says, were killed in search-and-rescue missions after Bergdahl’s disappearance. “I believe that Bergdahl also deserves sympathy,” Bethea writes, “but he has much to answer for.”