By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The American soldier at the center of a controversial prisoner swap with the Taliban is being charged with desertion. Last year, the Obama administration traded five Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for the release of Bowe Bergdahl.

At that time a member of Bergdahl’s unit from Minnesota spoke up about what he said really happened, and how his unit knew Bergdahl left his post intentionally.

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“I feel honestly that he may have singlehandedly lost the war in Afghanistan for us, like we’re not really walking away as victors from this war,” former Army Sgt. Josh Korder said.

Korder doesn’t mince words when talking about Bergdahl. He recalls his platoon mate acted distant upon arriving in Afghanistan and only grew more apathetic as time went on.

“Right off the bat, I said ‘He’s, at best, a deserter or, at worst, a traitor,’” Korder said.

Korder believes Bergdahl’s decision to explore the country of Afghanistan, had an immeasurable cost for the United States and its military.

“Everyone in the entire country was diverted to go and look for Bergdahl,” Korder said. “I think that was one of those moments when we’re in the surge, when we should have been concentrating our efforts on getting Afghan stable again, and then we had to go do something else instead, and I feel like that destabilized things.”

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Soliders reported six of their own were killed during searches for Bergdahl. Korder tattooed the names of three fallen comrades from Blackfoot Company on his back to honor them.

He said he knew he needed to speak out when he saw Bergdahl’s parents at the White House and learned of the exchange of five Guantanamo prisoners for the release of Bergdahl after five years in Taliban captivity.

Korder has waited for the day Bergdahl will face justice for what he calls the ultimate betrayal.

“I think that life imprisonment would be the best thing,” Korder said. “Anything less than that, and I think it would be cheating.”

The punishment for desertion during time of war can be death, but that option is off the table. The maximum he faces is life in prison for the misbehavior before the enemy charge.

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Korder is not sure yet if he will be called as a witness during the military equivalent of a grand jury.

Jennifer Mayerle