Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who abandoned his post in Afghanistan, leading to his capture and imprisonment by the Taliban, will see no jail time after pleading guilty for desertion and misbehavior toward the enemy. Instead, Bergdahl will be dishonorably discharged and see his rank and pay reduced.
Bergdahl, whose case was heard by a military tribunal at Fort Bragg, could have been imprisoned for the rest of his life because his desertion put search-and-rescue teams in danger throughout the five years he spent as a Taliban prisoner. However, though President Trump called Bergdahl a traitor during the 2016 campaign, military investigators were not able to tie injuries suffered by two soldiers and a Navy SEAL during operations directly to the searches for Bergdahl.
According to defense testimony earlier this week, Bergdahl had undiagnosed mental illnesses at the time he left his post in 2009 and most likely should not have been in the military. Bergdahl’s defense cited this finding, and his willingness to cooperate with investigators upon his release, as reasons for a lenient sentence.
During his trial, Bergdahl apologized to the soldiers who searched for him after he had deserted. “My words can’t take away what people have been through,” he said. “I am admitting I made a horrible mistake.” Bergdahl maintains that he deserted his post in order to travel to a larger base and report “a critical problem in [his] chain of command,” but he has yet to reveal what that problem was.