The U.S. Army may award up to $300,000 in American taxpayer funded-back payments for the time Bowe Bergdahl spent in Taliban captivity after he deserted his Afghanistan-based post in 2009 and prompted some of his colleagues to face death and injury while they searched for him.
Citing unnamed officials, Military.com reports that U.S. service members deemed as “captive, missing or missing in action” by the Pentagon are entitled to an estimated $148,000 in back pay and allowances.
Bergdahl may also receive an additional $150,000 in hostile-fire and basic pay for the estimated five years he spent in the Taliban’s hands after he willingly left his post.
Nevertheless, Military.com reports that making a decision on whether to pay Bergdahl may prove to be difficult for the Army, noting, “Questions remain over how much Bergdahl will receive and how much he is able to keep as he faces potential charges following allegations from his former unit that he willingly left his post. There are also questions about his designation as a Prisoner of War and the special compensation attached to it.”
“My understanding is there has to be an administrative determination of his duty status at each point, from the time he was captured until now,” an unnamed army official told the Army Times. “In order to figure out what he’s owed, you’re basically going to have to start from that point of captivity.”
Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration negotiated the release of the convicted deserter in 2014 in a controversial swap for five “high-risk” Taliban commanders held at the American military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
U.S. officials believe some of the freed Taliban jihadists have returned to terrorist activities.
Although some of Bergdahl’s platoon members accused him of being responsible for the death of six soldiers from his battalion who were killed or succumbed to injuries sustained during the all-out hunt for the deserter, the Army denied the allegations.
Referring to the search operation, TIME reported in June 2014, “The diversion of these men and their units to the hunt for Bergdahl thinned the ranks of U.S. troops elsewhere in the region, contributing to several more American KIAs [killed in action], U.S. soldiers who were there at the time believe.”
However, Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Wolf, who served as the top enlisted leader in Bergdahl’s brigade, and an Army internal investigation determined that Afghan terrorists killed no one who was searching for the deserter.
The Army investigation did find that some U.S. service members were seriously injured, including retired Master Sgt. Mark Allen, who was shot in the head, resulting in a traumatic brain injury.
In October, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
He was facing up to five years on the desertion charge and life behind bars for misbehavior before the enemy, but a judge decided to spare him any prison time.
The deserter’s only punishment was a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank from sergeant to private, and a $10,000 fine.
U.S. Army officials are now considering whether the military should compensate him for the time he was in captivity plus benefits, including about $148,000 for willingly walking into enemy territory, resulting in the Taliban kidnapping him.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump described Bergdahl as a “no-good traitor.”
In response to the judge’s no prison time sentence for Bergdahl, President Trump wrote on Twitter, “The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”