Army: No Evidence Bergdahl Aided Taliban During Captivity
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Army said Wednesday that there is no evidence that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct during his five years in captivity.
Sgt. Bergdahl is the focus of a continuing Army investigation trying to determine whether he attempted to desert his unit on June 30, 2009 while stationed at a small U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan. If charged with desertion, Sgt. Bergdahl could face court-martial, prison time and, in the most extreme sentence, the death penalty.
The Army investigation was launched after some soldiers who served with Sgt. Bergdahl accused him of deserting. A classified 2009 investigation concluded that Sgt. Bergdahl voluntarily left the outpost, but stopped short of characterizing his intentions because the Army wasn’t able to talk to the soldier while he was held by Afghan insurgents, according to officials familiar with the findings.
Some soldiers who served with Sgt. Bergdahl speculated that he had helped his captors while being held, but Army officials said Wednesday that there is no indication that he did so. “We have no reason to believe that he engaged in any misconduct” during the five years he was held captive, said one Army official.
Sgt. Bergdahl has told the military team helping him recover that life in captivity was often difficult and that he was confined to a cage for part of that time, officials said.
He was released by his captors last month in a controversial exchange for five Taliban officials being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He returned to the U.S. earlier this month and was moved to an outpatient facility in San Antonio, earlier this week.
Sgt. Bergdahl hasn’t spoken with Army officials appointed last week to investigate his 2009 disappearance and he won’t be interviewed for several weeks, while he adjusts to life back in the U.S., officials said. Sgt. Bergdahl hasn’t made any public comments since his release.
The investigation would normally be finished in 60 days, or by mid-August, but this review is expected to take longer because officials are waiting for Sgt. Bergdahl to complete his recovery process in Texas, officials said. The probe then will be handed over to Army officials who will decide whether there is any reason to discipline him.
This does not mean that Bergdahl is cleared of any potential charges related to his 2009 disappearance, which could range from being absent without leave to the more serious charge of desertion, because those matters are still being investigated. However, at the very least this would appear to answer some of the questions that were raised by some of the men Bergdahl was serving with when he disappeared regarding whether or not he had aided the Taliban in improving their ability to place IEDs that would injure or kill American troops on patrol. There were also some reports, which had never been corroborated, that Bergdahl had been seen walking around freely in the Taliban camp and carrying a weapon, which would certainly call into question the idea that he was being held captive. At the time of those reports, though, there were several observers who pointed out that there were many reasons to doubt the veracity of the Afghanis who had made these claims.