TIME Military

Bowe Bergdahl Caught Up in California Pot Raid

U.S. Army/Getty Images In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag.

But he was found to be uninvolved with marijuana farm, and was not arrested

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for five years, found himself caught up in a raid on a marijuana farm in California on Tuesday.

The pot raid, originally reported in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, took place on a farm where Bergdahl was visiting friends on authorized leave. He was found to be uninvolved with the marijuana operation and was not arrested. The Pentagon reportedly asked Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman to deliver Bergdahl to Santa Rosa to be collected by the army.

Bergdahl returned from Afghanistan in June 2014 after five years in captivity; in exchange, the U.S. government released five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo. He was subsequently charged with desertion and will face court martial.

[Anderson Valley Advertiser]

TIME Military

Army to Try Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for Desertion and ‘Misbehavior’

Had no option if it wanted to maintain good order and discipline

The Army had little choice other than to charge Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl with desertion. Otherwise, it faced an insurrection in the ranks, corrosion of discipline—or both.

“Bowe Bergdahl is a coward,” says Rob Kumpf, a one-time Army sergeant who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a refrain echoed by many active-duty troops, although Bergdahl has yet to tell his side of the story publicly. “While I strongly believe that we, as Americans, are duty bound to never leave one of our own behind,” Kumpf says, “I strongly hope that the government does what it needs to do to punish Mr. Bergdahl for his crimes.”

Bergdahl fell into Taliban hands in Afghanistan in 2009 after he reportedly became disillusioned with the war and walked away from his combat outpost. He was released after five years in captivity in a controversial exchange for five detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Army announced Wednesday that he is being charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. A preliminary hearing could lead to a full-fledged court martial.

Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, hailed the action. “My Army showed some backbone,” he says. “At least some of our generals have spines.”

The Army’s decision is gutsy, on two counts: first of all, it holds the White House, which celebrated his release with a Rose Garden ceremony featuring President Obama and Bergdahl’s parents, up to ridicule.

President Obama Makes A Statement On Release Of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
J.H. Owen – Pool / Getty ImagesPresident Obama hails Bergdahl’s return home last May with his parents, Jani and Bob.

Secondly, it means the Army could have to explain why it accepted Bergdahl as a soldier two years after he washed out of Coast Guard basic training, normally a red flag for recruiters.

While the desertion charge carries a maximum of five years imprisonment (only in a declared war can it carry the death penalty), the misbehavior charge could lead to a lifetime prison sentence. “The second charge—which is similar to ‘aiding and abetting’ in civilian parlance—suggests to me that we have strong evidence that Bergdahl may have given the Taliban important tactical information, or have otherwise been helpful to them,” Peters says.

While Bergdahl’s legal team didn’t respond directly to the charges in a statement it issued, it asked “that all Americans continue to withhold judgment until the facts of this case emerge.” Pentagon officials suggested a plea deal might avoid a public court-martial.

The Army faced grave consequences if it elected not to pursue the charges against Bergdahl. “The decision to court martial Bergdahl was probably the only one that the Army could make,” says Gary Anderson, a retired Marine colonel who served as a civilian adviser in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Any army has to have discipline at its core, and he is accused of deliberately leaving his post which endangered those soldiers who had to go look for him.”

Soldiers have alleged (although the Pentagon has said it can’t confirm) at least six U.S. troops died in clashes with the Taliban while hunting for Bergdahl after he went missing and was seized by the Taliban in Paktika province on June 30, 2009. “Bergdahl’s walking away was a large factor contributing to my son’s death,” Andy Andrews of Cameron, Texas, told TIME after Bergdahl’s release. His son, 2nd Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, was killed by an RPG September 4, 2009, while protecting a fellow soldier. They had been on a routine patrol near where Bergdahl vanished, and had been asking locals about him when they were attacked. “Sergeant Bergdahl is not a hero, and my son—who sacrificed himself to save others—was a hero,” Andrews said.

The Taliban released Bergdahl last May in a controversial trade for five Taliban detainees the U.S. was holding at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill criticized Obama for not informing them of the trade before it happened. Soldiers in Bergdahl’s unit kept quiet about his disappearance until the White House ceremony heralding his return to the U.S.

“I think he abandoned his post while the other four soldiers were asleep,” Greg Leatherman, Bergdahl’s former squad leader, told TIME after Bergdahl returned to U.S. soil (he has spent much of his time since at a San Antonio, Texas, Army post, where his preliminary hearing will be held at a yet-to-be-specified date). “He was a loner, he didn’t like to share much with anyone. Read the Koran quite a bit, which I respected. I saw it as him trying to be a better soldier, learning more about the people we were going to work with,” Leatherman said. “Turns out he was preparing.”

Charles Jenkins’ fate illustrates what Bergdahl might face, if the pre-trial hearing announced Wednesday leads to his eventual conviction at court martial. Jenkins deserted his Army unit in South Korea in 1965 and lived in North Korea until 2004. He ultimately pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and aiding the enemy. He received a dishonorable discharge, was stripped to the Army’s lowest rank, forfeited all pay and benefits, and was sentenced to 30 days in prison (he got out six days early for good behavior). He now lives in Japan.

But Jenkins was 64 when sentenced (Bergdahl turns 29 Saturday) and no one allegedly died trying to find Jenkins after he headed north through the Demilitarized Zone one freezing January night nearly 50 years ago.

The case also poses some risks for the Army itself. Bergdahl was discharged early from the Coast Guard, after only 26 days in boot camp in 2006, two years before he tried to enlist in the Army. The Coast Guard described the action as an “uncharacterized discharge,” which is typical for someone who leaves the service without completing basic training.

Generally such an event would have required a waiver from the Army before allowing such a prospective recruit to enlist. A wide variety of bars to enlistment—including legal problems and health concerns—require waivers because the Pentagon believes such recruits won’t do as well in uniform as those without such warning signs.

In 2008, the year Bergdahl joined the Army, the service granted waivers for about 20% of its recruits, usually for illicit drug use or other legal problems. Such waivers spiked as popular support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq sagged and the Army found it more difficult to entice young Americans to enlist.

Read next: The Desertion Charge for Bowe Bergdahl Was Months in the Making

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Military

The Desertion Charge for Bowe Bergdahl Was Months in the Making

TIME Photo-illustration. Bergdahl: U.S. Army/Getty Images The June 16, 2014, cover of TIME

Bergdahl's saga was TIME's cover story on June 16, 2014

Nearly a year after he was brought home through a prisoner exchange, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be court-martialed, a military official revealed Wednesday. The charges will be “desertion and avoiding military service” as well as “misbehavior before the enemy.” An official U.S. military announcement will come later Wednesday.

Last summer, when Bergdahl first returned to the United States, the chance that he might face such charges was already clear. Throughout a time of heated debate over the resources and compromises that had been necessary to bring him home, the Army promised to investigate what had happened. “Depending on the details, the facts of the case might support a charge of desertion–one of the most serious crimes a soldier can commit,” TIME’s David von Drehle explained.

And the details were bedeviling. As the story continued:

Sometime after midnight on June 30, Bergdahl made a neat pile of his armor, along with a note of farewell, then disappeared. He left his firearm behind, preferring to carry only water, a knife, a camera and his compass. More than 24 hours later, U.S. intelligence intercepted Taliban radio calls indicating that they had captured an American soldier.

The next part of the story was recounted by angry soldiers in magazines, on television and in Facebook posts in the wake of Bergdahl’s release. (In some cases, their accounts were facilitated by Republican political operatives eager to turn up the heat on Obama.) Each version brought its own details, but a clear picture emerged of the Army in Afghanistan urgently redirected to the task of finding the runaway soldier.

Read the rest of the story here on TIME.com: No Soldier Left Behind

TIME isis

Kayla Mueller’s Family Says Bergdahl Deal Hurt Her Chance for Freedom

Kayla Mueller
Matt Hinshaw—The Daily Courier/AP Kayla Mueller is seen after speaking to a group in Prescott, Ariz. on May 30, 2013.

ISIS claims the American aid worker was killed in a Jordanian air strike earlier this month

The family of an American aid worker who died while in ISIS captivity said the prisoner swap deal that freed Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban last year hurt efforts to secure the release of their daughter.

Relatives of Kayla Mueller told NBC on Monday that her captors’ demands, which started with a $6.2 million ransom, increased after the White House exchanged five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, who had spent five years in captivity, Reuters reports.

“That made the whole situation worse, because that’s when the demands got greater,” Mueller’s brother Eric said. “They realized that they had something. They realized that, ‘Well, if they’re going to let five people go for one person, why won’t they do this? Or why won’t they do that?'”

The United States does not negotiate or pay ransoms to terrorist groups holding Americans hostage, like the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. U.S. officials say the circumstances surrounding Mueller’s death are unclear; ISIS claims she was killed in a Jordanian air strike earlier this month. She was kidnapped 18 months before in northern Syria.

“The president is confident his administration did do everything that was possible within the confines of that policy, using our military might, using our intelligence capability, using our diplomatic influence, to try to secure the safe release and return of Kayla Mueller,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said.

[Reuters]

TIME Bowe Bergdahl

Guantanamo Detainee Exchanged for American POW Attempts a Return to Battle

Guantanamo Future
Charles Dharapak—AP A U.S. flag flies above buildings used for military tribunals for suspected terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on Nov. 19, 2013.

A Taliban commander exchanged for the release of a POW attempts to return to the battlefield, raising questions about closing Guantanamo

When U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in May to exchange five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay for Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who had been held captive for five years, his political opponents had a field day. They warned that the detainees risked returning to Afghanistan, and to militancy. Obama, with the backing of the government of Qatar that had agreed to host the men, promised that they would be kept far from the battlefield. Seems that the men may have had other ideas. According to CNN, U.S. military and intelligence officials now suspect that at least one of the detainees has made contact with Taliban associates in Afghanistan, suggesting that he, and perhaps the others, may be planning a return.

Considering that 29 percent of all U.S. detainees who were held in the Guantanamo detention center are either suspected of or confirmed to have returned to the fight, according to a March 2015 assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. TIME’s Massimo Calabresi predicted as much back in June, just after Bergdahl was released. The recidivism rate, he wrote, “suggests that statistically at least one of the Taliban leaders will return to the field to fight Americans in Afghanistan, or elsewhere.”

At the time of the exchange, Taliban commanders who had been involved in Bergdahl’s capture, captivity and release, told TIME that the exchange — five of theirs for one of America’s — would encourage them to seek out more P.O.W.s. So far, that hasn’t happened. It’s not clear which of the five former detainees was reaching out to associates in Afghanistan, but as high-ranking commanders and former comrades-in-arms of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, any one of them could galvanize a movement that is slowly making gains in the wake of the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan. Even if those plans have now been foiled, the incident may have one other far reaching consequence: as Obama attempts to close down Guantanamo for good, his opponents now have more ammunition for why he should not.

Read More: Behind the Scenes of Bowe Bergdahl’s Release

TIME Military

Bowe Bergdahl Questioning on Disappearance Set to Begin

Bergdahl Being Treated At U.S. Military Hospital In Germany
U.S. Army—Getty Images UNDATED - In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag. U.S. officials say Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan, was exchanged for five Taliban commanders being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to published reports. Bergdahl is in stable condition at a Berlin hospital, according to the reports. (Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images)

Army investigators are expected to probe allegations of desertion from Wednesday

Army investigators will begin questioning Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Wednesday about the circumstances leading up to his disappearance from an Afghanistan observation post and eventual capture by Taliban militants in 2009.

Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, told NBC News that Bergdahl will report to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Tex., where he will face questioning about his motivations to leave his encampment, which led to five years of captivity at the hands of Taliban militants.

The Obama administration negotiated Bergdahl’s release in May in exchange for five senior Taliban prisoners. Some soldiers that served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan, including his former squad leader, have accused Bergdahl of deliberately abandoning his post. Investigators will determine whether the allegations are substantial enough to file charges of desertion.

Fidell, in a previous interview with TIME, cast doubt on the assertion that Bergdahl left his post with the intention of staying away, and even then, would not necessarily face charges of desertion. “It’s utterly discretionary as a matter of clemency, a matter of judgment, and indeed even as a matter of politics,” he said.

[NBC News]

TIME Military

Lawyer: Bergdahl ‘Deeply Grateful’ to Obama

Bergdahl Being Treated At U.S. Military Hospital In Germany
U.S. Army / Getty Images Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for nearly five years before being released in May.

Army sergeant held by Taliban believes President’s decision “saved his life,” his attorney Eugene Fidell tells TIME

No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney.

“Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.

Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.

YaleEugene Fidell

But Fidell did suggest the case—now being investigated by a two-star Army major general—is more complicated than he originally thought. That’s saying something: Fidell is a prominent military-law expert who lectures at Yale Law School on the topic, and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

“Before I was in the case, I was skeptical that the investigation called for a major general,” Fidell says. “I thought that a talented lieutenant colonel would be more than enough horsepower—I thought it was overkill.” Army officials say Major General Kenneth Dahl has yet to interview Bergdahl.

Fidell said he has changed his mind as he has dived into the case. “Based on what I now know about the complexity of the issues, which are in a number of spheres that I’m not going to get into, I understand why the Army thought that a general officer should be involved,” Fidell adds. “I now understand why management thought that it was a good idea to have a two-star officer doing this investigation.”

The lawyer, who has taken the case pro bono—without pay—declined to discuss the specifics that led him to change his mind. But Bergdahl’s case is complex: according to the soldiers with whom he served, Bergdahl simply walked away from his combat outpost in June 2009 before being captured by the Taliban along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Some of those troops have called Bergdahl a deserter, and alleged that fellow soldiers died hunting for him.

Questions also surround the Army’s decision to allow Bergdahl to enlist, two years after he washed out of Coast Guard boot camp after only 26 days. And lawmakers on Capitol Hill have criticized Obama for giving up five senior Taliban leaders for Bergdahl, now 28.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., told TIME on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the swap was in the nation’s interest. “We were duty bound to bring him back, but I think we’re duty bound to bring him back in the right way,” said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee. “What other opportunities were there for us to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s release besides releasing these five high-ranking Taliban officials?…we did increase the risk to Americans and American interests by releasing these five.”

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said that Bergdahl is now free to come and go like any other soldier. “He’s free to leave base…he’s not under any particular restrictions,” Kirby said. “And I would remind you, he’s not been charged with anything.”

TIME Military

Bowe Bergdahl Returns to Active Duty

U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
U.S. Army/Getty Images U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Following weeks of recovery abroad and in a Texas outpatient facility

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is returning to active duty, the Army said Monday, after the soldier freed in a swap for Taliban leaders spent three weeks in an outpatient facility.

“Sgt. 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),” the Army said. “He will now return to regular duty within the command where he can contribute to the mission.”

Bergdahl was released after five years in Taliban captivity in May. Many ill and wounded troops are sent back to active duty during recovery, and Army officials are still continuing their probe into the circumstances of Bergdahl’s 2009 disappearance from his base in Afghanistan. Some soldiers have labeled him a deserter for that.

“The Army investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the disappearance and capture of Bergdahl is still ongoing,” the Army said.

Bergdahl was returned to U.S. custody in exchange for the release of five Taliban leaders detained in Guantánamo Bay, provoking protests from Republicans and other critics of the deal. An Army investigation found he had deliberately left his post in Afghanistan in June 2009.

TIME Military

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl Is Venturing Off Base as Part of Reintegration

Bowe Bergdahl
AP This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl

Held captive by the Taliban for five years, he's now being reintegrated with society

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the prisoner of war in Afghanistan who recently returned to the U.S. after five years of captivity, is regularly going off post to dine, shop and do other chores, according to Lieut. Colonel Carol McClelland.

“He’s been doing it for at least a week,” the Army spokeswoman tells TIME, adding that it was a normal component of his reintegration into society. On visits to San Antonio, he has been accompanied by members of his reintegration team, including a psychologist, according to the Associated Press.

Bergdahl, 28, was shifted last week to outpatient care at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He was freed by the Taliban on May 31 in a prisoner exchange for five senior Taliban officials held at Guantánamo Bay, and arrived in the U.S. on June 13. He was initially being treated in the U.S. at Brooke Army Medical Center.

As part of the reintegration process, the Army is increasing his exposure to people and social settings incrementally. It’s still unknown if his parents, who has asked for privacy since Bergdahl’s return, has visited their son.

The Army is still investigating circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s departure from his outpost in June 2009 before his capture.

With reporting by Mark Thompson

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com