Since last weekend’s prisoner exchange, a number of men who served with Sergeant Bergdahl have blamed him for the deaths of six to eight soldiers.
That claim is hardening into a news media narrative. The Daily Beast published an essay by a former member of Bergdahl’s battalion, Nathan Bradley Bethea, who linked the search to the deaths of eight soldiers whom he named. “He has finally returned,” he wrote. “Those men will never have the opportunity.”
The facts surrounding the eight deaths remain murky —even as critics of Bergdahl contend that every American combat death in Paktika Province in the months after he disappeared, from July to September 2009, was his fault.
Two soldiers died during the most intense period of the search after the disappearance. The other six soldiers died in August and September.
The first two deaths the critics link to Bergdahl involved a major assault by insurgents on a combat outpost called Zerok on July 4, 2009. Their view is that the Taliban knew the Americans were stretched thin by the search mission and took advantage of that opportunity to try to overrun it.
Bethea said an executive officer for the unit at Zerok believed that “the attack would not have happened had his company received its normal complement of intelligence aircraft. Instead, every intelligence aircraft available had received new instructions: find Bergdahl. My friend blames Bergdahl for his soldiers’ deaths.”
“You see a lot of anger because we lost… a decent amount of good guys looking” for him, said another soldier.