“The U.S. military has charged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with one count each of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, officials announced Wednesday afternoon.
“Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan before being captured and held captive for five years. For that, he faces charges that carry a maximum penalty of life in a military prison, and he could also have to forfeit pay and be stripped for his rank, Army Col. Daniel King said as he announced the charges.
“Bergdahl now faces a military procedure similar to a grand jury deciding whether charges are appropriate, King said. Then, he could face court martial proceedings.
“The decision comes nearly a year after Bergdahl returned to the United States as part of a prisoner exchange and since the Army began a formal investigation into his disappearance from his unit in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009.”
This possibility was, of course, rumored at the time of the prisoner swap and led to a lot of debate about whether the U.S. should have gone to such great lengths and cost to bring home a soldier who allegedly walked away from his post. The five prisoners the Obama administration released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay will be free to leave Qatar in June; we’ll find out after that if they return to a jihadist battlefield that, since their arrest, has grown to comprise large chunks of Syria and Iraq. At least one reportedly tried to contact other militants while in Qatari custody.
There were questions at the time as to whether the U.S. had more leverage regarding Bergdahl’s release than the 5:1 swap would indicate. A charge of desertion certainly makes the deal look worse. Was it worth trading five high-level terrorists — and losing the lives of other soldiers — to save the life of a man we could end up putting in prison for the rest of his life? That’s a very tough pill to swallow.