Former Taliban captive Bergdahl returns to Army duty
WASHINGTON — Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who spent nearly five years as a Taliban captive in Afghanistan, was returned to regular duty Monday with a desk job that makes him available to Army investigators for questioning about his disappearance in 2009.
In a brief statement, the Army said Bergdahl is now assigned to U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas, the same base where he has been decompressing and recuperating from the effects of his lengthy captivity.
His exact administrative duties were not immediately disclosed, but a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said Bergdahl is not restricted in any way.
“He is a normal soldier now,” Warren said.
The Army said that in his assignment to U.S. Army North he “can contribute to the mission,” which is focused on homeland defense. It said the Army investigation into the circumstances of his disappearance and capture by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009 will continue.
Bergdahl walked away from his unit after expressing misgivings about the U.S. military’s role — as well as his own — in Afghanistan. He was captured by Taliban members and held by the Haqqani network for five years. He was released May 31 as part of a deal in which the U.S. released five top Taliban commanders who had been imprisoned at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Some former members of his unit have labeled him a deserter and said some were wounded or killed looking for him. The Army has not ruled out disciplinary action against Bergdahl.
Bergdahl, 28, whose family lives in Hailey, Idaho, arrived at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston on June 13 after nearly two weeks recuperating at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Warren, the Pentagon spokesman, said he did not believe Bergdahl has seen his parents since his return to the United States. Army officials have refused to discuss the question of Bergdahl’s contact with his parents, saying the family requested that it be kept private.
Army officials had said that in recent days Bergdahl was allowed to go, with supervision, to a grocery store, restaurants, shopping centers and a library as part of the process of getting him comfortable with being out in public.
Bergdahl is “able to participate in the same on- and off-post opportunities as any other soldier,” Don Manuszewski, an Army North spokesman, said Monday.
Bergdahl has not commented publicly on the circumstances of his disappearance, and the Army has made no charges against him. The Army has said it is investigating Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture, but that investigators will not interview him until those helping him recover say it is all right to do so.
Warren said he did not believe that Bergdahl had met with investigators, as of Monday.
Associated Press writer Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report.