Soldier held by Taliban may face court martial

SHAFAQNA – Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier held captive for five years by the Taliban, may face a court martial for disappearing from his base in Afghanistan, US defence officials have said. The soldier, who was promoted from private to sergeant during his time in captivity, has kept a low profile at a military base in Texas since his dramatic return in a prisoner swap.

Five senior Taliban members were secretly removed from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and sent to Qatar in the controversial deal to bring Sergeant Bergdahl, 28, home in May.

The soldier was 12 weeks into his first tour of Afghanistan in 2009 when he inexplicably walked off his base.

Initial joy over the release turned to acrimony as President Obama was criticised over the secret deal to bring him home. Veterans of the Afghan conflict condemned the young soldier as a deserter who had cost the lives of other US troops.

One described how on the night before his capture, the soldier had carried out guard duty at an outpost in Paktika province but the next morning he failed to show for roll call. His rifle, helmet and body armour had been left behind but he had taken a compass — some soldiers said that he had talked of “walking from Afghanistan to India”.

The US army has completed an investigation into the case and a general will decide whether to pursue disciplinary action against Sergeant Bergdahl, who could lose years of back pay and future benefits if he is punished.

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