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Green Beret facing murder charge defends action, criticizes Army

February 11, 2019 - 2:03 pm
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By Ben Krimmel

Mathew L. Golsteyn, who is facing murder charges after killing an alleged Taliban bomb maker in Afghanistan, defended his actions and sharply criticized Army investigators for how they portrayed his case in a rare interview. 

In a two-hour interview with The Washington Post, Golsteyn recounted the events that led to him killing an unarmed suspected insurgent during the Battle of Marja during his deployment in 2010. Golsteyn claims what was a routine combat action is "now being characterized as murder."

Golsteyn told The Post he took up an ambush position in the Taliban stronghold when U.S. forces released the suspected bomb maker, not knowing if the man would walk toward Taliban areas or away from such areas.

To Golsteyn, if the alleged bomb maker, known as Rasoul, walked toward his position, it meant the man was headed back toward insurgent activities and could be targeted legally.

“He had been released, and (was he) going to go back to what (he was) doing? Or are you going to go somewhere else?" Golsteyn said. "If it had been me, this guy’s a-- would have beaten feet in a completely different direction.”

Golsteyn isn't sure how long Rasoul walked, only it was a long distance. "He had a long time to figure out where he was going in life,” he said.

What happened next is still unknown and at the center of a years-long investigation which led to murder charges against Golsteyn in December.

Retired Marine Corps JAG officer Rob "Butch" Bracknell told Connecting Vets in January the main government narrative about Golsteyn's actions is wrong. 

"Matt knew that the guy was gonna return to the place, basically to the scene of the crime, went and set up on it, and sure enough there he comes," Bracknell said. "There's a massive distortion of the facts out there. The government is now bringing Matt back to trial claiming they have new evidence. My understanding is that's just not the case, that maybe the Army is doing this for other reasons."

Bracknell, who testified as an expert witness on the law of war and rules of engagement at Golsteyn's initial administrative hearing, believes the Army has no case.

"The Army, if it has a case, it's based on their theory that Matt was playing unfair by setting up an ambush where he knew the guy was going to be after he was released," Bracknell said."I think that's a loser theory but I think that's what the government's theory is gonna be."

Golsteyn declined to answer some of The Post's questions like how long the man was free before he was killed and whether Golsteyn was alone at the time. The Army also declined to comment or release any information related to the case as it is an active law enforcement matter.

In an interview with Fox News, Golsteyn said he conducted a routine combat action which is "now being characterized as murder."

"What the Army and, particularly this time, the United States Army Special Operations Command seems to be intent on doing is characterizing an ambush as murder," Golsteyn told Fox & Friends' Pete Hegseth Sunday. 

Golsteyn has remained largely silent while facing charges, letting his supporters, attorney, and his wife, Julie, do most of the talking. But he spoke to The Post now because he believes the Army investigation is dishonest and he will not get due process unless his case is public.

“Because it’s the only thing these guys respond to. They do not obey their own rules,” he said.

After his wife Julie appeared on Fox News in December, President Trump tweeted he would review the case. 

Golsteyn told The Post he is grateful for the attention from President Trump and, while he can't expect one, he would welcome a pardon.

“It’s not an insignificant thing living every day knowing that you’re an enemy of the state,” Golsteyn told The Post. “We are playing for a court-martial. It would be pretty dangerous to be playing for a pardon, and then there is no pardon and we have to go to court-martial.”

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