Obama administration officials on Tuesday admitted that they have no idea if U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban during combat, a dramatic change from their explanation just a day earlier.
On Monday, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked several times if the government saw Bergdahl as someone who was trying to desert from the Army. That question was a reaction to press reports based on soldiers who served with Bergdahl.
Psaki rejected that theory on Monday, and said Bergdahl was captured during combat.
“We would characterize him as a member of the military who was detained while in combat,” she said.
On Tuesday, another State spokeswoman, Marie Harf, retreated by saying officials are in the process of finding out what happened. Harf keyed off comments that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey made on his Facebook page, which also said the military will soon learn what happened.
“[W]hen he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts,” Dempsey wrote. “Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred.”
Harf reiterated that officials are still trying to establish a “fact pattern” about what happened, and how Bergdahl ended up as a captive of the Taliban.
“We are going to learn the facts about what happened here,” Harf said. “We don’t know the facts about what happened yet on that day.”
Harf added that “regardless of how he went missing, it is our responsibility to him to bring him home.”
But while Harf said the State Department doesn’t know exactly what happened to Bergdahl, she still downplayed the idea that he might be a deserter by saying there are conflicting reports about how he was captured. “Nobody knows exactly what happened that night,” she said.