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Bowe Bergdahl debate reignites with ‘Serial’ season, House report

For the first time, Bowe Bergdahl's version of his experience is being heard publicly. On the podcast "Serial," the Army sergeant explains why he left his post in Afghanistan without permission before being captured by the Taliban. A prisoner swap for Bergdahl sparked criticism. Now House GOP members have just released a new report. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The controversy over the prisoner exchange that freed Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban last year reignited today, as Afghanistan struggles to fight back against the resurgent militant group.

    We start with this report from chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner.

  • BOWE BERGDAHL, Army Veteran:

    I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that, you know, I was the real thing.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    It's the first time Bowe Bergdahl's version of his experience has been heard publicly. The Army sergeant tells his story in a new episode of the wildly popular podcast "Serial." He says he left his post in Afghanistan without permission in June 2009, hoping to raise concerns about leadership his unit.

  • BOWE BERGDAHL:

    All I was seeing was basically leadership failure, to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me were literally, from what I could see, in danger.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But he was captured by Taliban fighters and remained a prisoner until his release last May.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    This morning, I called Bob and Jani Bergdahl and told them that, after nearly five years in captivity, their son Bowe is coming home.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    In the Rose Garden, President Obama announced he'd been freed, in exchange for releasing five Taliban inmates at Guantanamo Bay, who were sent to Qatar. The swap sparked criticism by Republican lawmakers, who blasted its legality, some calling Bergdahl a deserter, and by some of the soldiers who served with Bergdahl, who also accused him of deserting.

    SPC. CODY FULL (RET.) Army: Countless people looked for him when he went missing, putting their own lives on the lives for his. Combat is difficult. The only thing you can count on in combat is the commitment of your fellow American. Knowing that someone you needed to trust deserted you in war and did so on his own free will is the ultimate betrayal. MARGARET WARNER: The president defended his decision a few days after Bergdahl's release.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind. We had a prisoner of war whose health had deteriorated and we were deeply concerned about, and we saw an opportunity, and we seized it. And I make no apologies for that.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    That wasn't the end of it. Today, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee released a 98-page report, finding the Taliban swap violated several laws, requiring 30 days' notice to Congress, and that the committee was misled about the extent and scope of efforts to arrange the transfer.

    Democrats called the report an unbalanced, partisan, and needless attempt to justify a predetermined position. Bergdahl was originally charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, but the Army's investigating officer recommended his case be treated as a misdemeanor. Bergdahl is now awaiting a decision on whether he will be court-martialed.

    As the case plays out, the Taliban are again on the offensive. An attack on Kandahar Airport this week killed 50 people. And, in September, the militants seized the northern city of Kunduz for three days.

    Meanwhile, there's turmoil in Kabul, where the head of Afghanistan's main intelligence agency resigned today. He had opposed President Ashraf Ghani's efforts to renew peace talks with the Taliban.

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