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An image provided by IntelCenter on Dec. 8, 2010, shows a man believed to be Bergdahl. / IntelCenter via AP

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released by the Taliban in Afghanistan over the weekend after five years in captivity. Since then, several questions have swirled around why he left his post, how he was captured and how the Obama administration obtained his release:

Is he a deserter?

Various media reports, based on accounts of soldiers who served with Berghdal and e-mails he sent his parents and friends, paint a picture of a young soldier who became disillusioned with the U.S. role in Afghanistan. The reports say Bergdahl sent his laptop and clothes home halfway through his 12-month deployment and left behind a note saying he wanted to start over. He left behind his rifle and body armor and took only a compass, knife, water, camera and a diary, according to soldiers in his platoon. The U.S. Army is investigating why Bergdahl left his post to determine if he deserted or merely wandered off, and whether he put at risk troops who later searched for him. Members of Congress want answers, too. "I certainly want to know more about whether this man was a deserter," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Was Bergdahl captured or did he willingly go over to the enemy?

Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow, the team leader the night of Bergdahl's disappearance, told CNN that intercepted radio and cellphone conversations from a nearby village described an American soldier who wanted to talk to the Taliban. Insurgents on intercepted Taliban radio transmissions published by WikiLeaks described an unarmed Bergdahl sitting in a makeshift latrine when he was captured.

Did Bergdahl's disappearance cost U.S. lives?

Soldiers involved in the search for Bergdahl have told CNN and The Daily Beast that six to eight of their comrades died as a result of his leaving. Buetow told CNN that IED attacks increased in frequency and accuracy. He said U.S. soldiers worried that Bergdahl, who knew how U.S. vehicles traveled and how his former comrades would react to attacks, was providing information to the enemy, either under torture or willingly. The military has not said whether lives were lost in the search for Bergdahl. An analysis by The New York Times of the deaths attributed to the search for him concludes lives may not have been lost in the search, but troops died because of an increased tempo of fighting, a trend that began before Bergdahl left.

Did the exchange that freed Berghdal violate a policy of not negotiating with terrorists?

Bergdahl was released in exchange for five Taliban commanders who'd been held since 2001 at the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the result of indirect negotiations with the Taliban despite a U.S. policy not to negotiate with terrorists. Violating that policy compromised the safety of American civilian diplomatic and military personnel deployed around the world, said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. The White House says the negotiations were conducted through a third party, Qatar, which has provided reassurance that the Guantanamo detainees would be prevented from traveling or harming U.S. interests for a year. The USA has negotiated with terrorists in the past, to gain the release of U.S. hostages seized at the U.S. embassy in Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis, and of hostages held by Iran-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Did the release of detainees from Guantanamo violate a requirement to notify Congress 30 days in advance?

The White House apologized Monday for not notifying members of Congress about the deal in advance. Feinstein told reporters that Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told her Monday it was an "oversight." The Obama administration says, however, that it warned Congress when the law was passed requiring congressional oversight of the detainee facility holding enemy combatants in Guantanamo that it objected to the notification requirement because it might tie the president's hands in a prisoner exchange where time is of the essence. The deal to free Bergdahl developed quickly, and had to happen fast because Bergdahl's life was in danger, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

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