Return to Active Army Duty for Bowe Bergdahl
WASHINGTON (CN) - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is returning to regular duty as the investigation into his five-year capture by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network continues, the U.S. Army said Monday.
Bergdahl had fallen into Taliban hands shortly after leaving his combat outpost in the Paktika province on June 30, 2009.
The Pentagon announced on May 31 that it had freed Bergdahl, the last U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan, by trading him for five Taliban members being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay.
On Monday, a spokesman for the Army announced that "Bergdahl has completed the final phase of the reintegration process under the control of U.S. Army South and is currently being assigned to U.S. Army North, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston (JBSA)."
"He will now return to regular duty within the command where he can contribute to the mission," the statement continues. "The Army investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the disappearance and capture of Bergdahl is still ongoing."
When the Pentagon announced last month that Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl would examine why Bergdahl left his post, it noted that any interview of Bergdahl would not occur without leave from the reintegration team caring for the soldier at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
"The Army's top priority remains Sgt. Bergdahl's health and reintegration," it said.
Bergdah's return to active military service means that the casualty-assistance support that the Idaho National Guard provided to Bergdahl's family "will now conclude," the Army said Monday. Such assistance included the services of a media liaison.
A 2012 profile for "Rolling Stone" by late investigative reporter Michael Hastings documented Bergdahl's growing disillusionment with his mission in Afghanistan and featured the sergeant's last email to his parents.
"The future is too good to waste on lies," Bergdahl wrote, according to the article. "And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong."
In the June 27, 2009, email, Bergdahl made a reference to witnessing U.S. soldiers run over Afghan child with armored truck, an incident that Hastings said his parents believed to be a "formative, possibly traumatic event."
The sergeant left his post three days later in the early morning with only water, a knife, a digital camera, and his diary, and would become the U.S.'s only prisoner of war for nearly five years, the article stated.
Since Bergdahl's release, reporters have mined WikiLeaks-released diplomatic cables from the time and interviewed members of his unit. Anonymous government officials told multiple news outlets that a classified investigation indicated that Bergdahl wandered off base before but had returned.
During his investigation, Gen. Dahl will access "previously gathered documentary evidence, including the 2009 investigation," the Pentagon said.
While in Taliban custody last year, Bergdahl wrote a letter to his family explaining his decision to leave by stating: "Leadership was lacking, if not non-existent" in his unit, the Daily Beast reported.
Though Guantanamo's chief prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins had said that the five men traded for Bergdahl could not have been prosecuted, congressional Republicans nonetheless criticized the swap.
As Sen. John McCain told CNN, without evidence, that the White House had traded Bergdahl for "hard-core military jihadists who are responsible for 9/11," Republican strategists arranged interviews with members of Bergdahl's unit who would attack their former comrade as a deserter.
The Army has not yet identified a general who would decide whether Bergdahl should face disciplinary action.