Accused U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years, said in a podcast launched on Thursday that he left his post in Afghanistan to draw attention to "leadership failure" in his unit.
Bergdahl's first public comments since he was released by the Taliban in a prisoner swap that ignited a political firestorm are part of a series of interviews with filmmaker Mark Boal, writer of military-themed movies "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty."
"What I was seeing from my first unit all the way up into Afghanistan, all I was seeing was leadership failure," Bergdahl, an Army sergeant, said in the interview broadcast on "Serial," a podcast series.
Comparing himself to the fictional rogue CIA agent Jason Bourne, Bergdahl said his motive in leaving his post in 2009 was to prompt a search that would result in answers to his concerns about military leadership. He said he expected to be imprisoned, but felt it was worth it.
"I felt that I would rather be in Leavenworth than standing over the bodies of guys in my platoon," said Bergdahl, who conceded his actions were "stupid."
Bergdahl, 29, is currently stationed as a clerk at Fort Sam Houston in Texas while he awaits a decision on whether he will have to stand trial for desertion and misbehavior in front of the enemy at a court-martial. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison if convicted.
The podcast came on the same day Republican lawmakers accused President Barack Obama of arranging the exchange of five inmates from the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba for Bergdahl last year as part of his plan to close the prison.
Bergdahl's lawyer, Eugene Fidell, said the podcast offered Americans a chance to "judge the matter calmly and in its proper light."
Jeffrey Addicott, a retired Army Judge Advocate and former legal adviser to the U.S. Special Forces, said the comments would paint Bergdahl in the worst light possible at his trial.
"Bowe Bergdahl left his post of duty in a combat zone, he left his post of duty and put down his rifle," Addicott said. "The rest of it is irrelevant."
Addicott said Bergdahl's comment that he purchased Afghan clothing and took $300 out of his account before leaving showed his preparations and intention to flee his post, critical in proving the desertion charge.