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Military has wide discretion on Bergdahl charges

Published:Wednesday | January 28, 2015 | 11:03 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) -- ARMY AND Pentagon officials said Tuesday there has been no decision on what, if any, criminal charges will be filed against Sergeant. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who left his post in Afghanistan and was held by the Taliban for five years before being released in a prisoner exchange.

General Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has a broad range of legal options, including various degrees of desertion charges. A major consideration is whether military officials will be able to prove that Bergdahl had no intention of ever returning to his unit -- a key element in the more serious desertion charges.

The case is also fraught with politics. Some members of Congress and former members of Bergdahl's unit criticised the Obama administration for trading someone they considered a deserter for five top Taliban commanders held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If Bergdahl is severely punished, that trade could be called into question again. On the other hand, some believe that five years in Taliban captivity is punishment enough.

Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby said yesterday that Milley is proceeding "very, very deliberately and in a measured way."

Appearing on MSNBC, Kirby said that Bowe "has not been charged. There is no pressure or rush to judgement here ... and we just have to let this decision play out." Kirby said that a decision "is not imminent."