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Bergdahl returns to life of 'a normal soldier'

| Monday, July 14, 2014, 8:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The formal phase of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's transition from Taliban prisoner to soldier has ended.

Bergdahl, who was held captive in Afghanistan for five years, has been given a desk job on a military base, and the stage has been set for Army investigators to question the Idaho native about his disappearance.

In a brief statement on Monday, the Army wrote that Bergdahl has been assigned to Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

Bergdahl has been decompressing and recuperating from the effects of captivity since his return from a military base in Germany. Since he was handed over to American special forces in Afghanistan on May 31, he has been debriefed for any possible intelligence he might have gleaned in his time with the Taliban. Otherwise, he has been gently coaxed back into a normal routine and a normal life, physically and psychologically.

Bergdahl's exact administrative duties at Army North were not disclosed, but a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said Bergdahl is not restricted in any way. The Army said that in his assignment to Army North he “can contribute to the mission,” which is focused on homeland defense.

“He is a normal soldier now,” Warren said.

Bergdahl's case is one of the most extraordinary of recent times — for the length of his captivity, the circumstances surrounding his capture during a combat deployment, and for the controversy triggered by the circumstances of his release.

It's not clear when investigators will question Bergdahl as part of the disappearance probe. Their findings will help determine whether the 28-year-old will be prosecuted for desertion or faces any other disciplinary action. The probe is being headed by Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, deputy commanding general of 1st Corps at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state.

Numerous other questions linger, including whether Bergdahl will collect the estimated $300,000 in back pay he has accumulated during the past five years.

A military investigation in 2009 concluded that Bergdahl walked away from his unit, having expressed misgivings about the military's role — as well as his own — in Afghanistan. He was captured by Taliban members and held by members of the Haqqani network, an insurgent group tied to the Taliban.

He was released as part of a deal in which the United States gave up five top Taliban commanders who were imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The terms of the deal sparked a political storm in Washington.

Some former members of Bergdahl's unit have labeled him a deserter, asserting that he chose to walk away and saying that soldiers were wounded or killed while looking for him.

The Army has not ruled out disciplinary action against Bergdahl, who was promoted twice during captivity, from private first class to sergeant, as a matter of standard procedure.

At the time of his disappearance, Bergdahl was a member of 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

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