After nearly a year, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army soldier who was held by the Taliban for five years and then released in May 2014, is still waiting for a decision from the Army on his future. The controversy surrounding Bergdahl is twofold and involves the nature of his capture and the deal made to secure his release. There are reports from the soldiers he served with that Bergdahl voluntarily left his post the day he was captured by the Taliban. He then wound up in the hands of the Haqqani network, a notorious militant group allied with the Taliban. His return to the United States was facilitated by the release of five Taliban fighters from Guantánamo Bay.
The stakes are understandably high for Bergdahl, and the possible outcomes vary wildly. If honorably discharged, Bergdahl will receive back pay for his five years in captivity, as well as access to education and veterans affairs benefits. Or, the Army could initiate a court martial that results in a trial — the end result, being considerably harsher, no benefits, certainly no back pay, even if a plea deal is reached.
Last month, Secretary of the Army John McHugh told reporters that the Army is taking so long because of “the complexity of the case coupled with the fact that we have the future of a soldier in our hands. … We want to be fair, we want to protect that soldier’s rights, and come out to the proper conclusion.”