U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman: Army could pursue investigation of Bergdahl

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FILE – This undated image provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. U.S. officials say the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed and is in U.S. custody. The officials say Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s (boh BURG’-dahl) release was part of a negotiation that includes the release of five Afghan detainees held in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army may still pursue an investigation against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed from five years of Taliban captivity in a prisoner exchange last weekend, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday. The investigation could lead to desertion and other charges, General Martin Dempsey said.

In a telephone interview, Dempsey told The Associated Press that Bergdahl’s next promotion to staff sergeant, which was set to happen soon, is no longer automatic because Bergdahl isn’t missing in action any longer.

Bergdahl, held for nearly five years in Afghanistan, was freed last week in a prisoner-swap deal with the Taliban brokered by the Qatari government. Five Taliban militants were released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and flown to Qatar.

CCTV’S SEAN CALLEBS REPORTS ON THE BERGDAHL CONTROVERSY

Bergdahl controversy: Questions about deal for his release

Bergdahl controversy: Questions about deal for his release

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held by the Taliban for nearly five years -is now at a US Military Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. It is the next step in what will be a long process of recovery, and rehabilitation after his ordeal. But today -more questions about the deal that freed the army soldier.CCTV's Sean Callebs has the details.

“This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him,” Dempsey said. The military will question Bergdahl about the circumstances of his capture, he added. “Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty,” Dempsey said. “Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.”

Bergdahl was captured in unknown circumstances in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, about two months after arriving in the country. Many U.S. government officials say they believe he was seized after walking away from his unit in violation of U.S. military regulations.

On Monday, Republican members of the U.S. Congress said President Barack Obama had set a dangerous precedent with the prisoner swap and might have broken the law. Fueling the criticism were accusations by some soldiers that Bergdahl was a deserter who cost the lives of several comrades.

Obama on Tuesday defended the operation to rescue Bergdahl, saying the United States was committed to freeing its prisoners of war regardless of how they were captured.

The State Department on Monday said it considered Bergdahl a member of the military who was detained while in combat. The Pentagon said it was unable to confirm media reports that troops had been killed trying to locate Bergdahl following his June 2009 disappearance.

The Pentagon says Bergdahl is in a stable condition at the U.S. Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where doctors were assessing his condition after five years of captivity. Officials have indicated there is little desire to pursue any disciplinary action against him given what he has been through.

Report compiled with information from Reuters and The Associated Press.