WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, worries American soldiers have been put in harm’s way after five high-level Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay were exchanged for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Speaking to Fox News Tuesday, Cruz called the deal “extremely troubling.”
“The president decided to make a deal with terrorists,” Cruz told Fox News. “An obvious question that leaps to mind, how many soldiers lost their lives to capture these five Taliban terrorists? And how many soldiers may lose their lives in the future if and when these Taliban return to making war against Americans or how many innocent civilians might be killed?”
Cruz also questioned the Obama administration’s vetting process on Bergdahl, after The New York Times reported the sergeant left behind a note in his tent before leaving his Army post saying he did not support the American war in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life.
“As this thing has unwound in the last 72 hours and we’ve seen the questions that have been raised about Sgt. Bergdahl, there’s a whole set of new questions that are raised about what the president knew and when he knew,” Cruz noted to Fox News. “What they about Sgt. Bergdahl’s conduct, all the serious allegations that have been raised, what kind of vetting went on or did they simply make this deal and send these terrorists over without doing any vetting at all. And that’s a question we need to answer.”
Bergdahl disappeared on June 30, 2009. A Pentagon investigation concluded in 2010 that the evidence was “incontrovertible” that he walked away from his unit, said a former Pentagon official who has read it.
The military investigation was broader than a criminal inquiry, this official said, and it didn’t formally accuse Bergdahl of desertion. In interviews as part of the probe, members of his unit portrayed him as a naive, “delusional” person who thought he could help the Afghan people by leaving his Army post, said the official, who was present for the interviews.
Unit comrades of Bergdahl’s have accused him of desertion.
Matt Vierkant, 27, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a team leader of another squad in Bergdahl’s platoon, told The Associated Press that soldiers from his unit and other units were wounded or killed on missions to chase down leads related to Bergdahl. Reports indicated that at least six U.S. soldiers were killed looking for Bergdahl.
Asked about the statement Sunday by National Security Adviser Susan Rice that Bergdahl served “with honor and distinction,” he said: “That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t know if she was misinformed or doesn’t know about the investigations and everything else, or what.”
He said Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers knew within five or 10 minutes from the discovery of disappearance that he had walked away. In retrospect the signs were there, he said, but there was nothing so definitive that would have prompted action.
“He said some strange things, like, ‘I could get lost in those mountains,’ which, at the time, that doesn’t really strike you as someone who is going to leave their weapon and walk out.”
Vierkant said he believes it’s paramount that an investigation determine whether Bergdahl deserted or collaborated with the enemy.
“It shouldn’t even be a question of whether, it should question of when,” he said.
U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that the Army may still pursue desertion charges against Bergdahl.
Bergdahl remains in stable condition at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.
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