The Slatest

Freed POW Bowe Bergdahl Will be Charged With Desertion (Update: Army Denies)

A billboard near Spokane, Washington, last year.

Jeff T. Green/Reuters

Update, Jan. 27, 11:35 a.m: An Army spokesperson is denying that a decision has been made to charge Bergdahl. From the Army Times:

The Army continues to review the case against Bergdahl, said Paul Boyce, a spokesman for Forces Command, on Tuesday…Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of Forces Command, “is reviewing now the Army’s facts and findings to determine, impartially, any appropriate next steps and possible actions,” Boyce said. Milley is “actively reviewing the case,” he said. “No decision’s been made.”

Original post, Jan. 27, 11:23 a.m.: The May 2014 release of American Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan, became almost immediately controversial for two reasons. The first was that the United States had secured Bergdahl’s release by freeing five Taliban prisoners. The second was that Bergdahl was credibly accused of having deserted his unit before he was captured in June 2009. Today, NBC reports, the Department of Defense has determined that Bergdahl (who is still on active duty) will in fact be charged with desertion:

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.”

NBC reports that, in light of the time he has already spent in captivity, Bergdahl will likely be offered a deal that would allow him to avoid a prison sentence while leaving the Army with a “less than honorable” discharge and forfeiting back pay.