UPDATE: Bowe Bergdahl to be charged with desertion, officials say
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
By Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News
(NBC News) - Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive by enemy forces in Afghanistan for five years, will be charged with desertion, senior defense officials told NBC News. The officials say the charges could be referred within a week.
According to the officials, the desertion charges would be based on allegations that Bergdahl abandoned his remote outpost in June 2009 to avoid hazardous duty or important service, which are grounds for charges of desertion under the Uniform Military Code of Justice, or UCMJ. According to one senior official, Bergdahl's actions in Afghanistan go well beyond the lesser offense of AWOL, absent without leave, because he allegedly abandoned his post "in the middle of a combat zone, potentially putting the lives of his fellows soldiers at risk."
The charges will apparently not allege that Bergdahl left with the intent never to return. Bergdahl was reportedly captured by the Haqqani terrorist network in Pakistan. He was released in a prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay in May.
While a court martial could lead to imprisonment, defense and military officials tell NBC News it is likely Bergdahl would be given consideration for the 5 years he spent in captivity and be permitted to leave the Army with a "less than honorable discharge." If accepted, Bergdahl would be denied as much as $300 thousand in back pay and bonuses, and reduced in rank to at least Private First Class, the rank he held when he disappeared from his outpost in Afghanistan.
Army General Mark Milley, the command authority in the Bergdahl case, has not publicly released his findings.