A former senior military Special Forces advisor who was in Afghanistan and directly involved in efforts to mount a rescue mission for Bergdahl told ABC News there was anger and frustration after Bergdahl’s capture because soldiers were being asked to risk their lives to save a man who allegedly “was disillusioned and walked off base.”
Bethea said he "participated in the attempts to retrieve him throughout the summer of 2009" and named soldiers from the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division who he said were killed in action as the search dragged on for months with daily missions. The Pentagon spokesperson said it would be “impossible” to confirm the allegations about the deaths related to the Bergdahl search.
The Special Forces operator who spoke to ABC News said his team near Kabul was sent to the decrepit outpost near Ghazni to "stir up intel" on Bergdahl's whereabouts.
"When he left he had his knife, his compass, his bottle of water. That's what the 25th Infantry Division guys said to us," the Special Forces operator told ABC News Sunday. "We were all pissed off. We were going to go out there and search every building to find this kid."
A National Guard unit was ambushed and suffered casualties on July 8 while searching for Bergdahl and the next day a Special Forces team was hit in a U-shaped ambush by Taliban firing PKM machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. "I got shot three times. One through my leg, one hit my knee and one hit my radio," the operator recounted.
On a medevac flight home, the Special Forces operator said he met a U.S. Navy SEAL who had been shot in the legs on a commando mission looking for Bergdahl and his captors.
The Pentagon and Obama administration had steadfastly said they were determined not to leave any man behind including Bergdahl, a 501st Infantry Regiment trooper who was promoted by the U.S. from specialist to sergeant during his captivity by Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani's insurgent network. He was believed held in Pakistan.
A senior U.S. Special Operations officer told ABC News earlier this month that the military was still discussing how to address Bergdahl's possible desertion then, days before his release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was achieved this week.
Several veterans of the Afghan war familiar with Bergdahl's case said they hoped he would be prosecuted, but others said he undoubtedly has suffered enough during his long ordeal. Few think he will ever be charged for desertion because of statements by President Obama and his top military leaders on Saturday that they had fulfilled their obligation to leave no man behind. Criminal charges, if any, would be brought by the Army, which has jurisdiction.
"I say leave him be. He has enough baggage he'll have to deal with," said one special operator currently deployed.
"Obviously there is a political dimension to this as well as a legal dimension," retired Army Lt. Col. Geoff Corn, a former judge-advocate who now teaches at South Texas College of Law, told ABC News. “If there were indications that he deserted or collaborated with the enemy, the command responsible for reintegrating him could decide to investigate and charge him.”