US Army deserter Bergdahl faces court martial

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who abandoned his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by Taliban faces court martial and possible life-sentence

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Photo by: Reuters US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the US Army.

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who abandoned his post in Afghanistan in 2009, will appear in a court-martial trial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Tuesday, charged with desertion.

Bergdahl, who was captured and held by the Taliban for five years and subjected to abuse and torture, could receive a life-sentence if convicted of "endangering US troops," army officials said earlier.

On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl left behind his firearm and abandoned his post in Afghanistan and was almost immediately captured by the Taliban.

Bergdahl said he left his post in Afghanistan in June 2009 to draw attention to "leadership failure" in his unit, in a bid to prove he was "the real thing … what it is that all those guys out there who go to the movies ... want to be."

He said he aimed to trek to another military base. He was then spotted by six or seven men armed with AK-47s and could not resist his capture. "They pulled up and that was it," he said. "I'm not stupid enough to try and knife off a bunch of guys with AK-47s."

He was later handed back to US forces at a prearranged remote location in Afghanistan on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees referred to as the "Taliban 5: in 2014 after an offer from a Taliban spokesman in Qatar.

Some of the Bergdahl's former comrades who had conducted a search and rescue mission to find him have accused him of putting their lives at risk by his actions.

On the other hand, the head of the army team that investigated Bergdahl has said that he does not believe the army deserter should be imprisoned.

Major General Kenneth Dahl said Bergdahl is not a Taliban sympathiser and the military operation to find him did not result in any soldier's death.

In March, Bergdahl was charged with "desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty" and "misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place."

According to Bergdahl’s lawyer, a preliminary hearing recommended Bergdahl to face potential maximum penalty of a year in confinement, however, Army General Robert Abrams who ordered the court martial did not follow this recommendation.

Republican Senator John McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said last month that he would call a Senate hearing if Bergdahl was not punished.

In an interview, Fidell criticised members of Congress for "politicisation" of the Bergdahl case.

"The willingness of members of the... Senate to interfere with the adjudication of a pending criminal case is appalling," he said.

TRTWorld and agencies