BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s growing anger over the controversial exchange of an American prisoner of war in Afghanistan for five Taliban militants. The harshest criticism is coming from fellow soldiers who served alongside the man they call a deserter.
Mary Bubala has a WJZ exclusive.
Five high-level Taliban fighters are freed in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl. It has since ignited an uproar. Facebook pages are filled with headlines like “Bowe Bergdahl Is Not A Hero” and “Bowe Bergdahl Is A Traitor.”
“He’s a traitor and a deserter,” said former Pfc. Kenneth Wortham of Baltimore.
Wortham is lashing out at Bergdahl in this exclusive interview with WJZ.
Wortham served on the front lines with Bergdahl. The soldiers in his platoon are now all coming forward with the same story. They say Bergdahl went AWOL.
Wortham: “He left. He got up and left. He left his weapon. He took water with him, a notepad, some knives.”
Bubala: “Why did he walk away?”
Wortham: “He talked to a lot people in our platoon about wandering off in the mountains and being closer with the Afghani army and the Afghani police.”
Wortham is furious over the prisoner swap for Bergdahl.
“A lot of good people died looking for him,” said Wortham.
He says several soldiers in his platoon lost their lives searching for Bergdahl following his disappearance, including Sgt. Clatyon Bowen, who Wortham was close with.
Wortham: “I lost one of my best friends in Afghanistan–I seen him die.”
Bubala: “What do you think should happen to Bowe Bergdahl?”
Wortham: “I think he should get court-martialed.”
A petition on the White House website calling for Bergdahl to be court-martialed has already received more than 15,000 signatures, but President Obama defends the exchange.
“We still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity,” the president said.
Bubala: “President Obama says the U.S. does not leave soldiers behind.”
Wortham: “We didn’t leave him behind. He left us.”
Soldiers in Wortham’s platoon were interviewed by Army investigators shortly after Bergdahl’s disappearance in 2009, so all of their accusations were known to the Obama Administration when it negotiated his release.
Bubala: “Do you agree with anything that happened with this prisoner swap?”
Wortham: “He’s a liar and he’s a phony. He’s not an official American to me.”
The U.S. Army is investigating and says it will not rule out prosecuting Bergdahl if he did desert his post.
The hometown celebration for Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho has been canceled. Town officials cited security concerns after the town was inundated with negative emails and angry phone calls.
Other Local News: