Sgt. Bergdahl and the American in the Afghanistan Presidential Election
The walk away of Sgt. Bergdahl and subsequent rescue have caused much debate in America. Few think President Obama did the right thing, but the trade was not remotely even- apathetic American soldier whose opinion changed once he had his first combat experience for five senior members of the Taliban, one of which is a war criminal for atrocities in 1999. But, Bergdahl was unlike many thousands during the Vietnam war era from 1968-71, when the U.S. Army drafted men into combat, There was no choice. The choice then was to go, get killed maybe in a war you did not believe in or run to Canada or burn your draft card and hide. The legal way out was to get a deferment or exemption by claiming you were a drug user, a fag, by religious beliefs, or being a student. Even claiming one of these, did not mean you got spared.
Sgt. Bergdahl, like many soldiers , was gung-ho for duty in Afgahnistan, which is why he volunteered. But after his first real taste of a nasty combat situation in May, 2009. Prior to this, he asked his superior if he could, "cut off the face of his first Taliban kill and wear it". Even his superior was shocked. But after the battle, this gung-ho soldier turned peacenik, questioned the strategy of killing, and felt the Peace Corps approach was the better way to help Afghanistan. That is, win the hearts and minds of the people. He was the contradictory soldier. On one hand, he did despise the Taliban for how they treated civilians, yet admired them for how the fought. He began to learn their language and customs.
There are special people in the Army who do just that, Bergdahl was in the wrong role, he was a grunt taught to fight. Bergdahl's horrific ambush along a mountain road that made everyone think that this was the end, changed his whole attitude about the war. This was also a common occurrence in Vietnam, which why that war had so many troop problems and bad morale. That war had many AWOLs and desertions from disillusioned men.The movie "Platoon" is really a pictorial of how it was on many bases.
But Sgt. Bergdahl actually would leave his base on time off and walk up to a place where local Afghans lived and hung out. He tried to make friends and practice Pashto language. He would hang out with Afghan police. So, when he disappeared at night on June 30, 2009, many in his platoon thought he had cut a deal with the enemy to escape. Maybe or maybe not, maybe after drinking heavily, his mental state simply could no longer do what he enlisted for. Maybe he had wished he had joined the Peace Corps and he became distraught and just said "fuck it".
If the Army finds he deserted, that penalty could be death. I find it impossible to believe that would ever happen, maybe life in imprisonment. I am sure in Bergdahl's mind, he does not feel what he did was that horrible. He wanted to help but in a non-combat role. The problem is that six men died looking for him. That aggravates what he did 100%.
The Afghanistan presidential run-off will be happening. This winner will replace Karzai. Voters will have a local legend, Abdullah Abdullah, 53, has been fighting for the country since the 1980's when the Soviets invaded and then later, the Taliban. His sister tried to woo him away from the war by moving to NYC, it didn't work. By profession, he is an eye doctor. The other candidate is an American citizen, oddly enough, Ashraf Ghani. He came here in the 80's for college and received his degree here and later held a senior post at the World Bank. He returned to Afghanistan in 2001, after the US removed the Taliban from Kabul. His political career then began. In the country's first election, Abdullah was ahead 45% to 32%, since neither had a 50% mandate, they will try again. Ghani holds two degrees and a Ph.D in anthropology. He was a professor at UC Berkeley. His family remains in the US.
The good news for American policy is that either winner states they want a continued American presence in the country. I guess its good news as long as you don't have to go there.