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A major general in charge of investigating the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl testified today that he believes the wayward soldier should not be sentenced to prison. Now, this contradicts the government's depiction of Bergdahl as a cowardly deserter. Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl said the sergeant left his unit as a publicity stunt to try to draw attention to the platoon's poor leadership. From San Antonio, NPR's Wade Goodwyn has the story.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: In many ways, the case of Bowe Bergdahl has been a baffling mystery. Why would a model soldier, who was by all accounts itching for combat, walk off his post in the middle of the night only to be captured by the Taliban? Was he secretly a coward? Was he mentally ill? Did he not care about the fate of his platoon, who was forced to go looking for him at the risk of their lives? In riveting testimony, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl said this morning that it was none of the above. Dahl said Bergdahl had a reputation as an outstanding soldier who was frustrated that his platoon was not involved in more direct combat with the Taliban. But the general said Bergdahl had a serious flaw when it came to judging the content of others' character. He saw himself and his fellow soldiers as the epitome of sincere fighting men. But he grew to believe the platoon's officers were corrupt men, hateful, self-interested and inept. Dahl testified that Bergdahl finally convinced himself his command was so hopeless the platoon was in danger. So Bergdahl came up with a plan - a PR stunt designed to draw attention. He decided he'd run from his platoon's operating post 31-kilometers to a much larger forward operating base. Once there, he'd find a general and blow the whistle. Bergdahl decided not to take his gun so he could run unimpeded, and he cobbled together an Afghan disguise so that when it got light, he could put it on and pass as a farmer. It was all a delusion. The area Bergdahl planned to run across was teeming with Taliban. It was futile, and he was captured soon after it got light. Gen. Dahl said that now five years later, Bergdahl regrets how young, naive and reckless he'd been and that he cringes at the fact that he put his platoon and so many other soldiers at risk looking for him. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, San Antonio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.