When Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl returned to the U.S. last June after five years of captivity in Afghanistan, the celebration of his freedom quickly turned to consternation over the cost: the release of five Taliban prisoners from Guantánamo Bay. It didn’t help that some members of Bergdahl’s platoon said he was captured after walking off the remote Army outpost alone in one of the most dangerous regions for American troops.
Still, President Obama trotted out Bergdahl’s parents for a triumphant homecoming news conference, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the soldier from Sun Valley, Idaho, “served the United States with honor and distinction.” But military brass grumbled about the deal from the start, with one source telling TIME that the Administration had essentially told them to “suck it up and salute.”
Now, after being freed from captivity abroad, Bergdahl could become a prisoner at home. He was charged by the Army on March 25 with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and faces life in prison if convicted. The charges are among the most serious the military could have brought against him.
It’s not yet clear whether Bergdahl will actually face a court-martial; a plea bargain is a possibility.
Now that he’s been charged, the debate over whether Bergdahl’s freedom was worth the cost will begin anew. And the only captive U.S. soldier of the Afghanistan war stands to lose the most important thing he just got back.
This appears in the April 06, 2015 issue of TIME.
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