U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his post in Afghanistan, has been referred for a trial by general court-martial, the Army announced Monday.
Bergdahl, who was kidnapped by the Taliban following his abandonment of a forward operating base in Afghanistan, was charged this year with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If charged with the latter, he could potentially face life in prison. If charged with only desertion, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The decision to have Bergdahl face a court-martial was made by Gen. Robert B. Abrams, the head of Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“The U.S. Army Forces Command’s Commanding General referred two charges today, Dec. 14, in the case of United States vs. Sgt. Robert B. Bergdahl to a General Court-Martial,” the Army said in a statement. “The two specific charges referred under the U.S. Armed Forces’ Uniform Code of Military Justice are: (1) Article 85: ‘Desertion with Intent to Shirk Important or Hazardous Duty;’ and (2) Article 99: ‘Misbehavior before the Enemy by Endangering the Safety of a Command, Unit or Place.”
Eugene R. Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, said Gen. Abrams “did not follow the advice of the preliminary hearing officer who heard the witnesses.” He also claimed that the hearing officer did not even recommend a prison sentence for the Army deserter.
The disgraced Army sergeant was freed after the Obama administration negotiated a deal with the Afghan Taliban through Qatar, which acted as an intermediary. The Taliban held Bergdahl for almost five years.
The White House released five Taliban commanders, all of whom have significant ties to terror operations, from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl.
The “Taliban Five” have resumed “threatening activities” against the United States, a new report released by the House Armed Services Committee revealed last week.
“Some of the Taliban Five have engaged in threatening activities since being transferred to Qatar,” the report said.
Some of the charges against the “Taliban Five”–Mohammed Fazl, Mohammad Nabi, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Norullah Nori, and Kahirullah Khairkhwa–ranged from committing war crimes to aiding al-Qaeda to brokering relations with the Islamic regime in Tehran.
A hearing date for arraignment at Fort Bragg has not yet been set.