Bergdahl Wasn’t Only Soldier to ‘Walk Off’ Afghan Outposts

WASHINGTON – Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl left his combat outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 and fell into enemy hands for five years, but the former Taliban prisoner wasn’t the only trooper to sneak out of a U.S. base in recent years, military sources told ABC News on Sunday.

“At least a dozen guys just walked off their posts” in Afghanistan since 2009 for a variety of reasons, said an experienced soldier, one of four Afghan war veterans familiar with the incidents who spoke to ABC News. The other sources estimated the number could be more than a dozen.

The highly experienced combat veterans — whose deployments cover the entire Afghan campaign — said the significant incidents spanned a timeframe from when President Bush in late 2008 boosted conventional troop numbers in Afghanistan to well beyond President Obama’s early 2010 surge that added 30,000 more troopers to the fight.

USA_PFC_BoweBergdahl_ACU_CroppedThe soldiers discreetly slipped “outside the wire” to find drugs or were already intoxicated, left to “hang out” with local Afghan villagers or Afghan forces, or just simply snuck away without any idea where to go or what to do, the Army sources said.

“There was one kid who walked off his camp with an axe and some beef jerky with a plan to walk to Iran. The Afghan Local Police found him and brought him back,” a second seasoned soldier with many deployments to Afghanistan confirmed.

The most infamous incident involved Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a Stryker Brigade soldier who left a U.S. special operations camp in Kandahar province one night in March 2012 without authorization or apparently being noticed and entered a local village. Bales gunned down 16 Afghan civilians, half of whom were small children, and set their remains on fire. He was charged with murder by the Army, pleaded guilty and received a life prison term.

Military officials declined comment on Sunday. A spokesperson for the Office of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel referred an ABC News reporter to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, which in turn said U.S. Central Command was the proper authority to comment on the issue. A spokesman for that combatant command based in Tampa, however, said it was a matter that should be addressed by the U.S. Army since it involved soldiers leaving their posts. An Army spokesperson advised a reporter to contact ISAF and CENTCOM.

There is no evidence that any of the soldiers who walked off post were charged with any form of desertion or intended to join the enemy. All were disciplined in various ways, the military sources said.

“This happens in wartime,” said Gary Solis, a retired Marine Corps prosecutor who has taught law at West Point and Georgetown University.

Bergdahl’s intentions once he left Combat Outpost Mest in Paktika province remain murky to officials five years later, though Army leaders have said they will hold him accountable as part of his reintegration process should any misconduct be proven.

In 2010, a Green Beret staff sergeant at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost took one of his teammates and a low-level “Category One” Afghan interpreter on an unauthorized joyride outside the base which ended in a deadly shootout with Afghan National Security Forces at a checkpoint, the four soldiers told ABC News, including sources who knew the Special Forces operator and a senior officer who is familiar with details of the case.

“While off base, they were mistakenly engaged by Afghan forces,” the senior officer said. “The interpreter died and the SF soldier was wounded… I believe the SF soldier was administratively separated from the Army as a result of this.”

One soldier who knew the joyriding Special Forces soldiers said they were suspected of being high on hashish, a highly concentrated form of marijuana, which is a cash crop in Afghanistan. But blood test results were misplaced.

“They took his beret and gave him the boot,” the soldier said.

The senior officer said the investigation did not turn up evidence of drug use, but acknowledged drugs and alcohol are often prevalent at many outposts, including Special Forces camps. Bales admitted to using steroids, which he claimed altered his mood.

“Pills are huge over there because they’re so cheaply made in Pakistan,” said the first soldier, whose background and knowledge was verified by other soldiers.

“It was certainly not unheard of in Vietnam,” added Solis, a Vietnam veteran, referring to both substance abuse as well as troops walking off their combat bases. “In Afghanistan, there were so many outposts ‘away from the flagpole’ out in the countryside.”

Feds say NYC strippers drug rich men

NEW YORK (AP) — A crew of New York City strippers scammed wealthy men by spiking their drinks with illegal synthetic drugs, then driving them to strip clubs that ran up tens of thousands of dollars on their credit cards while they were too wasted to stop it, authorities said Wednesday.

A banker and a real estate attorney were among four victims who lost at least $200,000. None was identified by name in court papers.

Drug Enforcement Administration and New York Police Department investigators arrested four women — all described as professional strippers — earlier this week on charges including grand larceny, assault and forgery, according to papers provided to The Associated Press.

One of the women was expected to appear in state court in Manhattan later Wednesday following appearances Tuesday by the other three, including suspected ringleader Samantha Barbash.

Barbash’s attorney, Stephen Murphy, said Wednesday that his client denies the charges. He declined to comment further.

A strip club manager also was facing potential charges.

The roundup followed an undercover investigation that found that the women joined in a scheme to rip off the men by drugging them with the stimulant methylone, commonly known as “molly,” or other drugs after arranging to meet them at upscale bars in New York and Long Island, authorities said. The impaired victims were driven to Scores in Manhattan and the RoadHouse in Queens, where they were charged for private rooms, expensive meals, drinks and other services, they said.

The clubs paid the women for the visits, but the establishments were not facing criminal charges, authorities said.

The men reported waking up in their cars or in hotel rooms with little or no memory of the encounters. Those who tried to dispute the strip club bills received texts from the strippers threatening to go public with their transgressions, authorities said.

Last month, Scores sued a cardiologist, saying he owed the club $135,303 for unpaid services. According to the lawsuit, the doctor disputed the charges by saying “he was drugged by plaintiff’s employees and thus did not authorize the charges” – a claim the club says is contradicted by security video showing him freely showing up there on four separate occasions.

There was no immediate response to phone messages left Wednesday at Scores and the RoadHouse.

US Condemns Syria’s Election, Fine With Egypt’s

Slams Syria Vote as ‘Disgrace’ Despite Strong Similarities to Other US-Backed Votes

The US State Department issued a statement today angrily condemning Syria’s presidential elections as a “disgrace” that don’t represent legitimate voting and will confer no credibility to presumptive winner President Bashar Assad.
syria-lebanon-map1Officials centered their complaints on the lack of real opposition candidates and massacres over the course of the last several years, along with the inability of people in rebel-held regions to vote.

If that sounds familiar, you probably remember Egypt holding an election a week ago under extremely similar circumstances. The US, comfortable with the military coup there and only vaguely concerned with the massacres in Cairo, has been comfortable withGen. Sisi’s win over his coup-backing non-rival.

And while both Syria and Egypt’s elections were a foregone conclusion, they both seem positively Athenian in their democratic principles compared to the 2012 Yemen vote, in which Maj. Gen. Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the US-backed ruler, was “elected” in a single candidate vote in which voting “no” was not an option.

Hadi’s rubber stamp election was such a runaway success, by US standards, that President Obama declared it a potential “model” for the Middle East. If Syria is falling short of this model, it can only be in its presumptive victor not having been given an advanced imprimatur by the US.

by Jason Ditz, June 03, 2014

Drone Lawyer: Kill a 16-Year-Old, Get a Promotion

Exclusive Above-top-secret details of Britain’s covert surveillance programme – including the location of a clandestine British base tapping undersea cables in the Middle East – have so far remained secret, despite being leaked by fugitive NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden. Government pressure has meant that some media organisations, despite being in possession of these facts, have declined to reveal them. Today, however, the Register publishes them in full.

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