Flanked by the parents of missing US Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, President Obama announced that he had reached a deal with the Taliban securing their son's return from the Taliban in exchange for the release of five senior Taliban leaders who were being held in Guantanamo Bay. The announcement took place during a press conference in the White House rose garden on Saturday and already has both civilian and military officials alike calling the legality of the deal into question.
In addition to the legality of negotiating for Bergdahl's release from the Taliban, a number of soldiers who served with Bergdahl at the time of his 2009 disappearance have come forward and claimed that the missing sergeant is- at best- a deserter and may have been actively collaborating with the Taliban after going AWOL. Reportedly, at least six soldiers were killed in Taliban ambushes as the unit was searching for Bergdahl leading to criticism of the release from some of the soldier's family members.
The circumstances behind Bergdahl's disappearance are murky, but what is known that Bergdahl was absent when his unit-
1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division- conducted a headcount in the early morning hours of June 30th, 2009 at a forward operating base in southern Paktika province. Bergdahl, who was originally from Idaho, expressed growing disillusionment with the US Army in Afghanistan in his correspondence with his father and reportedly made offhanded comments to his platoon-mates about just walking off into the mountains. Some soldiers said that Bergdahl likely told the Taliban on how best to place IEDs for maximum effect on US Convoys.
Bergdahl's father did nothing to allay those suspicions after sending out messages via social networking sites like twitter encouraging the release of all Taliban prisoners in US custody while following foreign fighters in Syria. Bob Berdahl was also reportedly learning to speak Arabic and Pashto- the language primarily used by the Taliban- although that may have been done in an attempt to independently secure the release of his son. The elder Bergdahl also raised eyebrows when he uttered "In the name of Allah, the merciful and compassionate-" in Arabic during his appearance in the Rose Garden with President Obama over the weekend [anybody else find it slightly curious that Obama had time to fly in the elder Bergdahl for the rose garden presser, but not notify Congress?- NANESB!]
The five Taliban detainees who were released were identified as Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari. The five were flown to the gulf state of Qatar while Bergdahl was flown to a US Army hospital in Germany.
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence committee say that the White House has broken the law by entering into negotiations with the Taliban without notifying Congress. According to NBC's senior Washington correspondent, the White House was caught off guard by the military's reaction to Bergdahl's release.
6/4 UPDATE- A couple of even stranger developments began circulating regarding the aftermath of Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance in 2009 that have only recently come to light. The first was that some of Bergdahl's platoon-mates were reportedly ordered by superiors to sign a non-disclosure agreement over Bergdahl's alleged desertion and the search for the missing GI. According to Bergdahl's team leader, an Afghan interpreter translated messages in real-time from radio chatter about a lone American in a nearby village looking for an English speaker so he could talk to the Taliban.