PENTAGON — The U.S. Army is responding to the growing wave of criticism over the deal to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. He was released Saturday in Afghanistan, after almost five years as a Taliban prisoner, in exchange for five high-risk Taliban detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The deal has sparked outrage from those who call Bergdahl a deserter.
The anger is coming from people like Bowe Bergdahl’s former team leader in Afghanistan.
"People calling him a hero or calling him this great soldier? It's a spit in the face to one, all the soldiers who were there," said Evan Buetow.
Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow is glad Bergdahl is safe, but Buetow says he cannot comprehend celebrating a soldier he says just walked away.
"More importantly, it's a spit in the face to the soldiers who died as a direct result to him leaving," he said.
On Tuesday, Army Secretary John McHugh issued a statement making clear the military’s first priority is restoring Bergdahl’s health, but there is no timeline for how long that will take.
McHugh says once that happens, the Army will undertake a “comprehensive, coordinated” review of Bergdahl’s June 2009 disappearance from his base in Afghanistan, including a talk with Bergdahl himself, leaving open the possibility the former prisoner could face discipline.
Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers are continuing to take aim at President Barack Obama’s administration, with some calling for an investigation into how the prisoner swap was pulled off.
Others, like Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, are warning of dire consequences for letting high-ranking Taliban leaders go.
“Clearly, this is putting many, many additional American lives in danger," said McCain.
Whether Bergdahl is even aware of the firestorm (controversy) sparked by his release is not clear.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren says Bergdahl remains at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany under the care of specially trained psychologists.
“Part of the reintegration process is to get the returnee in control of his emotions, in control of his feelings and able to tell his story," said Warren.
Bergdahl’s access to media is also being limited, and Pentagon officials say that as of Tuesday morning, he had not even been ready for contact with his parents.