UPDATE 2:08 p.m. – Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, according to Bergdahl’s attorney and a Congressional source.
UPDATE 1:52 p.m. – The U.S. military said Wednesday that it will make an announcement on the Bergdahl case at 3:30 EDT from Fort Bragg.
It’s been nearly a year since Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returned to the United States as part of a prisoner exchange and since the Army began a formal investigation into his disappearance from his unit. Yet the Army still hasn’t made public its findings and, with them, what discipline — if any — Bergdahl will face for leaving his base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009.
Where does the investigation stand?
A senior defense official told CNN in late January that a decision on whether to charge Bergdahl — and what those charges would be — could come “very soon, imminently.” But no decision has been announced.
The Army concluded its investigation into the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture in December. Since then, it has been in the hands of Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, who will decide what to do.
Several U.S. military officials CNN has spoken with suggested privately that the process is taking longer than expected.
What are the options for disciplining him?
Officials say Milley only has a few choices. Doing nothing does not seem to be one of them. The sense is that Bergdahl must be held accountable for his actions. But there also appears to be little appetite for a lengthy term in military confinement given the five years Bergdahl was held by the Taliban.
If Milley decides to send the case to a courts-martial, he is required to have the evidence in hand to support the charges that would be filed. That could be difficult: Some members of Bergdahl’s unit have left the Army and would have to be subpoenaed to testify. The Army also promoted Bergdahl during captivity, something a defense counsel might use to challenge evidence Berghdahl was a poor soldier. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said last June that Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction.”
Other disciplinary options that would keep Bergdahl out of a military court include docking his pay and reducing his rank.
What were the circumstances surrounding his capture?
Bergdahl, who’s now 28, was taken by the Haqqani terrorist network. But the circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure from his base and how willingly he left have not been clear.
Some members of Bergdahl’s platoon have criticized him, labeling Bergdahl a deserter.
“I was pissed off then, and I am even more so now with everything going on,” former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009, told CNN last year. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”
What has he done since he returned to the United States?
Bergdahl was freed in May when President Barack Obama agreed to swap five Taliban prisoners who had been detained in Guantanamo Bay to secure Bergdahl’s freedom, sending those detainees to Qatar.
Obama announced Bergdahl’s release to fanfare in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by the Army sergeant’s parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl. His hometown of Hailey, Idaho, had planned a parade to celebrate Bergdahl’s homecoming but later canceled that celebration amid security concerns stemming from the unanswered questions surrounding his disappearance and the resulting controversy over his release.
Bergdahl has remained on active duty at an administrative job at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. There, the Army assigned Bergdahl a “sponsor” to help him adjust to life in his new post. Upon returning, Bergdahl refused to meet with his parents — and months later, Army officials said he was communicating with them but still had not met them face to face.
What about the Taliban figures he was swapped for?
The five figures the United States exchanged to secure Bergdahl’s release were Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari. They were mostly mid- to high-level officials in the Taliban regime and had been detained early in the war in Afghanistan because of their positions within the Taliban, not because of ties to al Qaeda.
The detainee swap for Bergdahl has become increasingly controversial in recent weeks after a report published by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said one of the 17 intelligence agencies operating under its umbrella had judged that a prisoner released in the exchange had since contacted the Taliban. The families of other U.S. hostages taken by terror groups have complained that the Bergdahl swap also suggested there’s a price American leaders are willing to pay in exchange for the safe return of U.S. citizens.