America's Only POW Rescued, But At What Cost?

Fellow soldiers are accusing Bowe Bengdahl of being a deserter after his controversial rescue.
8:02 | 06/03/14

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Transcript for America's Only POW Rescued, But At What Cost?
Tonight, new details about the controversial move to trade America's only known prisoner of war for five high-ranking members of the Taliban held at guantanamo bay. Some of his fellow soldiers now coming forward to say he walked out and should be punished, not celebrated. Here's ABC's Neal Karlinsky. Every day I want to go home. Reporter: Five long years after that first proof of life video -- Release me. Please. I'm begging you. Bring me home. Reporter: -- Army sergeant Bowe bergdahl, the last known American prisoner of war, got his wish this weekend. He wasn't forgotten by his country. Because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind. Reporter: His father showing the beard he refused to shave until his son was released. Speaking to reporters in an emotional news conference, he still hasn't spoken directly to his son. And I want you to know that I love you. I'm proud of you. I'm proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people and what you were willing to do. Reporter: But that is where the fairy tale version of this story ends. Tonight some are questioning his service, even calling him a deserter. The fact of the matter is he deserted us in the middle of Afghanistan to go and find the Taliban. Reporter: Former army sergeant Evan but was bergdahl's team leader. Tonight he and other soldiers who served with bergdahl say his actions cost American lives. The U.S. Military launched a massive search, and missions were changed in the wake of his capture. People calling him a hero and people calling him this great soldier, it's a spit in the face to, one, all the soldiers who were there. And more importantly, it's a spit in the face who the soldiers who died as a direct result to him leaving. Reporter: Adding fuel to the outrage, the cost of his release. The U.S. Handed over five high-level Taliban fighters in exchange for bergdahl. You have to be concerned not only about the principle of negotiating with terrorists but the five who were released in exchange for sergeant bergdahl. Reporter: The Taliban immediately claimed a great victory, even posting a video of a hero's welcome. After all, these are no ordinary prisoners. They are high-ranking Taliban. Described previously as too dangerous to be set free and likely to rejoin the Taliban. The detainees are living in the midst of luxury in Qatar in a Taliban villa. There is no sign they were in custody or under guard. Their families were flown in to be with them. And the only known condition imposed by the U.S. Was that they not travel outside of Qatar for at least a year. I've been pretty lost in my life. Reporter: So who is Bowe bergda bergdahl, the P.O.W. Who was hardly a household name until now? He grew up in rural Hailey, Idaho, was home-schooled by his mother, Janney, and studied ballet for years. Bergdahl decided to join the army in 2008, and the following year was sent to Afghanistan. Even before his capture he grew disillusioned with the war effort. And later in this video posted to youtube during his time in captivity he voices his concerns. This war isn't worth the waste of human life that it costs both Afghanistan and U.S. He was definitely upset and frustrated with the war effort and how we were handling our business. Reporter: He was taken by the Taliban after allegedly walking off base without permission and without his weapon. Though today a defense department spokesperson said the military has never officially stated that bergdahl walked away from his post, adding that preliminary investigations were all missing bergdahl's side of the story. His parents knew almost nothing beyond these videos. First their son in Afghan clothing eating. Later in uniform, even exercising. His father bob not content to just watch, taught himself about Bowe's captors, their language, culture, and even took to youtube to address the Taliban directly. A Salam aleikhem. Reporter: But what he didn't know, what no one could, was what Bowe was going through during that half decade. To find out we spoke to two members of that rarest of fraternities, former prisoners of the Taliban who actually lived to talk about it. I knew I was going to die. Then I had a very strange experience. I was able to review my entire life. My childhood school days, the first day when I got married. You see your whole life. It's as though death grants you this wisdom, this insight before taking you outside and in my case I thought my throat was going to be cut. Reporter: Former "New York times" reporter David Rohde was captured by a similar group. Once you're brought into this remote corner of Pakistan you realize you could be held for years and years and years. And you don't know when it's going to end and you're very afraid the world is going to forget you. Reporter: Bergdahl was believed to be held by operatives from the haqqani network which is affiliated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. I was told I was going to be executed the next day. Reporter: Langen knows all too well what bergdahl faced with the haqqani Taliban. Oddly enough I've got a problem with having my throat cut. Can I be shot in the head instead? And the Taliban had a little conference and came out and said no problem, instead of cutting your throat you can K shot. Reporter: The filmmaker was captured in 2008 and held in a dark room for four months. During my captivity I set my clock to London time. I used to bathe my children every day at 5:00. And I'd close my eyes. I'd kneel down at the bed. And in my eye I could see my -- feel my children. Reporter: Journalist David Rohde, who spent eight months in]-: Taliban captivity before a daring escape, says he spent much of his time inside his own mind. I thought of my family specifically on holidays. I relieved moments -- the marriage between me and my wife, our honeymoon together. You relive these earlier periods in your life as a way to kind of cope and get through the day. You break down each day into a little struggle to just try to somehow keep going. Reporter: But for Langen it turned out captivity was the easy part. The real struggle is not in captivity, surviving. It's when you're released. And that's when the real struggle begins, bizarrely, coming home. Back home two or three months after my release, every night for six months I would just see images of death and beheadings and I'd wake up in a cold sweat. And if I'd had a gun I would have shot myself. There's a lot of guilt feelings, frankly, in hostages. And I'm sure that's something Bowe is absolutely going to struggle with. Reporter: But bergdahl was held prisoner for far longer than these journalists in the remote mountains of eastern Afghanistan. A landscape that Bowe's father has pointed out actually looks pretty similar to his hometown of Hailey, Idaho. And that may help Bowe make what the military likes to call a soft landing back home. Video obtained by the "Guardian" newspaper shows Bowe's father in a tent near his home, in woods where Bowe used to hike. He says his son could possibly find solitude here. We set this up for him. Reporter: There's no timetable for his recovery. But bergdahl's parents say they are up for the challenge. Before he returns home, he will remain under evaluation and treatment at a military hospital in Germany. Give yourself all of the time you need to recover and decompress. There is no hurry. You have your life ahead of you. Reporter: The long road back to health is tough for my prisoner of war, but for bergdahl perhaps even more difficult because of the questions his return has unleashed at home. For "Nightline" I'm Neil Karlinsky in Hailey, Idaho.

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