Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is coming home to America as early as Friday morning. The former Taliban captive has been deemed ready to enter a new phase of his recovery after being released in exchange for five high-ranking Taliban officials this month.
Bergdahl, who had been recovering both physically and mentally in a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, is being transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, the Pentagon announced today. According to the Associated Press, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed that Bergdahl was already en route and would remain in Texas until medical professionals felt comfortable allowing him to return home.
Last week, officials confirmed that Bergdahl appeared to be physically in health, but requiring a significant amount of mental health care to fully recover from his years in captivity. Outlets also reported that Bergdahl declined the opportunity to speak to his parents.
The Associated Press also spoke to an anonymous U.S. official, who said “medical personnel had determined that Bergdahl was ready to move on to the third phase of his reintegration process, which would happen at Brooke.” While he did not provide any further details, other officials confirmed that the Army had not yet begun investigating the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture or whether any inappropriate behavior on Bergdahl’s part contributed to his capture.
The Obama administration’s decision to trade five Guantánamo Bay prisoners known to be high-ranking members of the Taliban for Bergdahl has generated controversy not just because of the potential dangers of freeing the Taliban members, but because of allegations that Bergdahl himself sought out the attention of the Taliban. Multiple soldiers that served with Bergdahl have alleged that he deserted his battalion, and in doing so put other troops in danger, including six who are alleged to have died on missions related to Bergdahl’s rescue.
The San Antonio Military Medical Center, to which Bergdahl is currently heading, is home to the military’s “reintegration process,” in which prisoners of war are slowly reintroduced to free life in America and reunited with their family and friends. Lieutenant Colonel Carol McClelland, a spokeswoman for Army South, told Reuters that the process involves “family reunions, medical care – debriefings are included in it. We have a psychologist who monitors the whole process, Mostly, it is medical care and trying to get the soldier back into normal activities and routines.”
The military has provided no details regarding how long the reintegration process is expected to take or at what point during or after the process it may pursue an investigation into Bergdahl’s case. The Washington Post also reported that the military “said questions could not be put to Bergdahl, 28, ‘at this point in his reintegration process'” about reports that he was discharged from the Coast Guard in 2006, possibly for psychiatric reasons.