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Conjecture of desertion hangs over Taliban's prisoner GI

| Sunday, March 2, 2014, 6:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held by the Taliban since 2009, has arisen again as the United States and other countries engage in diplomatic efforts to free him.

But if he is released, will America's only prisoner of the Afghan war be viewed as a hero or a deserter?

Though tattered yellow ribbons adorn utility poles in his native Hailey, Idaho, some express conflicting thoughts about Bergdahl's plight as the war winds down, with President Obama threatening to withdraw all troops by year's end unless the Afghan government signs a crucial security agreement.

They are convinced that on June 30, 2009, just a few months after he arrived in Afghanistan, Bergdahl willingly walked away from his unit, which was deployed in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, adjacent to the border with Pakistan. While they want Bergdahl home, they think he should have to answer allegations that he deserted his unit.

Bergdahl was last seen in a video the Taliban released in December.

Rolling Stone magazine quoted emails Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggest he was disillusioned with America's mission in Afghanistan, had lost faith in the Army's mission there and was considering desertion.

Bergdahl told his parents that he was “ashamed to even be American.” Bergdahl, who mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books, wrote: “The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong.”

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