UK & World News

  • 4 June 2014, 7:10

Sgt Bergdahl: Army 'May Pursue' Desertion Probe

The US soldier freed after being held nearly five years by the Taliban could still face charges over allegations that he deserted his post prior to his capture in 2009.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Army may pursue an investigation and would "not look away from misconduct if it occurred".

The senior military adviser to the president told the AP news agency that the decision would fall to the Army, but cautioned against prejudging the matter.

Questions are swirling over Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's ordeal, including whether his alleged desertion endangered fellow soldiers and may have even led to the deaths of comrades conducting search missions after he vanished on June 30, 2009.

Earlier, Barack Obama, who faces mounting criticism for agreeing to release five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Sgt Bergdahl's freedom, defended the actions despite the mystery surrounding the soldier's capture.

Mr Obama said on Tuesday: "Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity.

"We don't condition that."

Sondra Andrews, the mother of 2nd Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, told the privately-owned Army Times newspaper that she believes her son was killed while on a mission to find Sgt Bergdahl.

She said the military told her that her son was on a mission to find a high-value Taliban target when he was killed in September 2009.

But she said that men who served with her son later contacted her and told her that their unit had been on a mission to find Sgt Bergdahl.

In 2010, the Pentagon concluded that Sgt Bergdahl walked away from his base in Paktika province, and the military curbed any high-risk rescue plans after an initial flurry of searches.

Greg Leatherman, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Sgt Bergdahl's unit has called for an investigation, saying that his fellow soldier "crawled away" from his post.

He said: "His welcoming as a hero is not something that sits well with me. I'm glad he is home and healthy, but there needs to be an investigation and the truth needs to be told."

A story published by Rolling Stone magazine in 2012 quoted emails Sgt Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggested he was considering desertion.

Meanwhile, a petition posted on the White House website that calls for desertion charges against Sgt Bergdahl has generated more than 10,000 signatures as of mid-day on Tuesday.

The motion must reach 100,000 signatures by June 30 to elicit a response from the Obama administration.

On Monday, the mayor from Sgt Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, urged Americans not to rush to judgment.

Sgt Bergdahl, 28, is still under the care of doctors at a US military hospital in Germany. It is not immediately known when he will return to the US to be reunited with his parents.

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