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Bergdahl's team leader says he helped the Taliban fight Americans

A group of former Taliban fighters.
A group of former Taliban fighters.
Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Sgt. Evan Buetow, who led the unit that recently freed prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl served in, claimed on CNN today that Bergdahl didn't just defect: he actively helped the Taliban kill Americans.

There's very good evidence that Bergdahl defected from his unit. If all he did was walk away and then get captured by the Taliban by accident, that's one thing. But if, as Buetow alleges, he actually tried to join the Taliban — well, that's a much more serious offense.

Buetow claims to have heard "radio chatter" from the Taliban that an American was seeking them out. "Over the next couple of months" after that, "all the attacks were far more directed." The implication is that Bergdahl provided intelligence to the Taliban.

If true, this significantly complicates the administration's argument that releasing five high-value Taliban detainees was a price worth paying to "leave no man behind." For one thing, it opens up the possibility that the Taliban never really held him as a prisoner, and that the entire point of presenting him as one publicly was to negotiate exactly this kind of freedom deal for some of its detained operatives.

Buetow's allegation is far from proven. Even if he's correct that Bergdahl gave the Taliban useful intelligence — again, not even close to proven — that could have been given up under duress or otherwise arrived at through hostile interrogation. But the allegation itself will be politically troublesome for the White House. It opens up more issues of fact for internal military or Congressional investigation, which means this controversy will be plaguing the White House for awhile yet.

But right now, we just don't know either way. Here's the CNN segment Buetow appeared on: