The Pentagon has forwarded its investigation into Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance from an Afghan outpost to a general courts-martial convening authority, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
Bergdahl is the U.S. soldier who was held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The U.S. gained his freedom in May by trading him for five jailed Taliban.
The Pentagon spokesman said today that action against Bergdahl could range from no further action to convening a court martial.
“The Army cannot discuss or disclose the findings of the investigation while disciplinary decisions are pending before commanders,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Bergdahl’s fate will be decided by Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of Forces Command. NPR’s Tom Bowman tells our Newscast unit:
“The investigative report did answer this question: Did Bergdahl go absent without leave — also known as AWOL — or was he a deserter, a more serious offense. Officials would not say what the report concluded.
“Some of Bergdahl’s former comrades were bitter that he walked away. They say the long search for him in Afghanistan resulted in some soldiers being killed or wounded.”
A month after his return, the U.S. launched an investigation into the “facts and circumstances” surrounding not only how Bergdahl disappeared but also his capture.
Just how Begdahl disappeared has always been murky. As we previously noted:
“There have been questions about just how Bergdahl was captured in 2009. He’s said that he lagged behind while on patrol. U.S. officials have said he walked off the base with three Afghans; there have been reports that he was captured during an attack on his post; and the Taliban have said they captured a ‘drunken American soldier.’ Many service members say they believe Bergdahl is a deserter.”
Today’s decision comes, as NPR’s Bill Chappell previously reported, after the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said in August that the Pentagon didn’t give enough notice to Congress and misused nearly $1 million when it swapped Bergdahl for the Taliban.
Bergdahl’s writings, published by The Washington Post earlier this year, reveal that he struggled with his presence in Afghanistan.
The Army sergeant spent weeks at a U.S. military hospital in Germany following his release. He was then sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to recover. Bergdahl was cleared for regular duty in the Army in July.