Freed US soldier Bergdahl to return home Friday

Amid growing debate over his release, former Taliban captive to arrive in Texas for continued treatment at army hospital

A video released by the Taliban purports to show Bowe Bergdahl being handed over to US troops. (photo credit: YouTube screen capture)
A video released by the Taliban purports to show Bowe Bergdahl being handed over to US troops. (photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

AFP — The American soldier released in a controversial swap with Afghan insurgents headed back to the United States on Friday, as letters showed he had complained about his commanders.

Bowe Bergdahl, handed over on May 31 in return for five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo prison, departed a military hospital in Germany on Thursday bound for a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas. He is due to arrive around midnight (05:00 GMT).

“He will arrive in San Antonio early tomorrow morning, where he will continue the reintegration process at Brooke Army Medical Center,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

“Our first priority is making sure that Sgt Bergdahl continues to get the care and support he needs.”

The US Army sergeant had been recuperating at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, amid growing debate over the swap that secured his freedom, with some US lawmakers accusing President Barack Obama of capitulating to “terrorists.”

Bergdahl has yet to speak to the news media about his nearly five-year ordeal and Pentagon officials have said his health has steadily improved in the days since his release.

His disappearance from a base in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 has fueled speculation that the soldier deserted his post before he was captured and that he may face prosecution by military authorities.

Letters and other correspondence have emerged this week suggesting Bergdahl was in a troubled state of mind before and during his deployment, and that he lacked confidence in his superiors.

“Leadership was lacking, if not nonexistent,” he wrote in a letter sent to family during his time in captivity that was obtained by The Daily Beast website.

The letter, one of two sent to Bergdahl’s family via the International Committee of the Red Cross, is marked by numerous spelling errors.

“The conditions were bad and looked to be getting worse for the men that where actuly the ones risking thier lives from attack,” he wrote in a March 23, 2013, letter.

Bergdahl also appears to appeal for understanding over his disappearance, though he does not explicitly state that he deserted.

It remained unclear to what degree his captors from the Haqqani network — extremists allied with the Taliban — were dictating what he should write to his family.

“If this letter makes it to the USA, tell those involved in the investigation that there are more sides to the cittuwation,” he wrote.

“Please tell DC to wait for all evadince to come in.”

‘Lone wolf’

Copies of the two letters were passed to the website by sources in contact with the Taliban, The Daily Beast said.

Bergdahl opens the letter to his family in Idaho saying he missed the Thanksgiving holiday and then recounts the “bad” conditions that prevailed during his deployment with US forces.

The circumstances from the start of his time in Afghanistan were “bad for troopers” and orders from officers “showed a high disconcer for safty of troopers in the field,” he wrote.

Bergdahl said there were “unexceptable conditions for the men working and risking life every moment outside the wire.”

After he went missing in 2009, the military said he was “absent without leave.”

A journal kept by Bergdahl, as well as correspondence and interviews with his friends, convey a sensitive, fragile personality ill-suited to the conventions of the military.

Officials acknowledged Wednesday that Bergdahl had been discharged from the US Coast Guard in 2006, before he joined the army, for what authorities said was a failure “to adapt to military life.”

Bergdahl’s friends were dismayed and surprised when they learned he had signed up for the army in 2008 following his abbreviated stint in the Coast Guard.

A journal and other writings obtained by The Washington Post that date back to the months before he disappeared indicate he was struggling to keep a grip on his mental stability.

“I am the lone wolf of deadly nothingness,” Bergdahl wrote in one passage quoted by the Post.

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