Bowe Bergdahl Reveals Why He Left Afghan Base in 'Serial' Podcast

Bowe Bergdahl spoke to filmmaker Mark Boal.

December 10, 2015, 12:18 PM

— -- Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is speaking out for the first time about his decision to walk away from his remote Army outpost in Afghanistan that led to his capture by the Taliban.

Bergdahl’s phone conversations with filmmaker Mark Boal are featured in the new season of the wildly popular podcast “Serial."

In those conversations, which were released today, Bergdahl explained why he was motivated to leave his base and jeopardize the safety of his platoon.

“All I was seeing was basically leadership failure to the point that the lives of the guys standing next me to were literally, from what I could see, in danger of something seriously going wrong, and somebody being killed,” he said.

Bergdahl said he was unhappy with the leadership in his unit and believed no one would take his complaints seriously. He devised a plan to hike 18 miles to another Army base to report his concerns to a general.

“I was fully confident that when someone took a look at the situation...that people would understand that I was right. What was going on was a danger to the lives of the men of that company,” Bergdahl said on the podcast.

Bergdahl also admitted that he had the desire to prove himself as a kind of “super soldier,” like the fictional CIA spy Jason Bourne.

But only 20 minutes after leaving the post, in a remote area of Afghanistan, Bergdahl says he realized he was in over his head. “This really starts to sink in, that I really did something bad," he said.

Bergdahl was soon captured by the Taliban and held captive for nearly five years. He was released in exchange for five Taliban detainees who were held at Guantanamo Bay. The controversial prisoner swap exchange has been criticized by members of Congress.

The narrative Bergdahl laid out to Boal matches what he told Army investigators at a preliminary court hearing in September. The presiding officer at that hearing recommended that Bergdahl’s case should proceed to a Special Court Martial. General Robert Abrams, the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, is currently weighing whether to accept that recommendation or if Bergdahl should face any kind of a court martial at all.

Bergdahl is charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with one count of Article 85, "Desertion with Intent to Shirk Important or Hazardous Duty," and one count of Article 99, "Misbehavior Before The Enemy by Endangering the Safety of a Command, Unit or Place."

Today, Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee released a report on the prisoner swap, saying the Department of Defense misled Congress about the trade and did not give Congress enough notice before releasing the Guantanamo Bay detainees to Qatar.

According to the report, the Obama administration conducted the swap "without properly informing Congress or even communicating the fact that the plan was being developed, despite a legal requirement and specific pledges to do precisely the opposite.”

Democrats called the report "unbalanced" and "partisan," but agreed with the conclusion that the Department of Defense didn't "adequately inform" Congress about the prisoner transfer. Democrats noted that the "question of legality" on the 30-day notice "remains unsettled."

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