While top military officials have welcomed the return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity, they've also been careful to note that the circumstances surrounding his 2009 capture will be the subject of a thorough investigation.
"It was always a high priority that every soldier deployed to Afghanistan would return home. We will never leave a fallen comrade behind,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said Wednesday in a statement.
After his health issues are addressed, Odierno added, “we will conduct a thorough, transparent and complete review of the circumstances surrounding his capture."
Odierno's statement echoed those by Army Secretary John McHugh and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“As an Army, we are grateful that an American soldier is back in American hands. The warrior ethos is more than words, and we should never leave a comrade behind,” McHugh said.
'[T]he Army will then review this in a comprehensive, coordinated effort that will include speaking with Sgt. Bergdahl to better learn from him the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity,” he added. “All other decisions will be made thereafter, and in accordance with appropriate regulations, policies and practices."
Added Dempsey: "Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army's leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred.”
Assurances that the U.S. military will investigate alleged misconduct that may have led to Bergdahl's capture comes as an unwelcome surprise to White House officials, including outgoing Press Secretary Jay Carney and national security adviser Susan Rice, who've stated earlier that the 28-year-old Idaho native “served with honor and distinction.”
It's unclear why the White House was unprepared for the backlash against Bergdahl by his former comrades and other veterans since President Obama announced Saturday that he had been returned to U.S. hands in a Rose Garden event with Bergdahl's parents that drove the ongoing Veterans Affairs Department scandal out of the headlines.
Bergdahl is currently being treated in a U.S. military hospital in Germany where officials have reported that he is in "stable condition and receiving treatment for conditions requiring hospitalization" after his return from captivity.
The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center said that Bergdahl's treatment "includes attention to dietary and nutrition needs after almost five years in captivity." The medical center declined to comment any further on Bergdahl's status.
The former Taliban captive is expected to be transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he will face further evaluation.