FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Christian Examiner) – U.S. Army officials announced today that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who in 2009 abandoned his combat unit at an outpost in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and who was exchanged in 2014 for the release of five Taliban fighters, has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Formally, he is charged with violating the Uniformed Code of Military Justice Article 85 which applies to a service member who ""quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service," and Article 99 for behavior that "endangers the safety" of any command, unit or place.
Although both offenses during a time of war could have warranted the death penalty, Col. Daniel King said the Army would seek confinement for life for the misbehavior charge and confinement for 5 years for desertion. Conviction on either charge would bring a reduction in rank from E-5 to E-1 as well as forfeiture of all pay and benefits.
Bergdahl was 23 years old when he allegedly decided to walk off the command post instead of reporting for guard duty, and reportedly left a note saying he was going to start a new life.
He was held by the Taliban for five years and gained his freedom in exchange for the United States' release of five detainees at Guantanamo, Cuba, including Mullah Mohammad Fazl, former Taliban chief of staff; Mullah Norullah Noori, a close associate of Taliban supreme commander Mullah Omar; former Taliban deputy intelligence chief Abdul Haq Wasiq; and senior Taliban officials Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa and Muhammad Nabi.
The next step in the adjudication process will be an Article 32 hearing (akin to a civilian grand jury hearing) at Fort Sam Houston in Texas where a military official will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to court martial or whether the charges should be dismissed.