The Army’s investigation into the 2009 disappearance of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has entered the final stage, Army officials said Friday, but they cautioned that it will take at least three more weeks for a final draft to be completed and even longer for it to be presented to top Army leaders.
The investigating officer, Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, questioned Bergdahl last week over two days, said his civilian lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell. Dahl is working to establish what happened to the soldier who went missing from his patrol base in Afghanistan’s Paktika province on June 30, 2009, and was imprisoned by militants for five years, some of that time in a locked cage. He was recovered by the United States on May 31 in a controversial exchange for five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Dahl is in the process of completing his draft report, but “it is possible that he will have to follow up on outstanding issues,” said Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman. The general’s report will undergo a separate legal review before it is presented to top Army officials, and it isn’t clear how long that could take.
The results of the investigation could significantly affect Bergdahl’s future. At stake: An Army determination of whether it should bring criminal charges against him for deserting his post or going absent without leave, both of which are illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Some fellow soldiers in his platoon have insisted that is the case, but Bergdahl’s mental status at the time is also likely to be examined and could be a factor in any determination.
Fidell, a military justice expert who teaches at Yale University, was retained by Bergdahl as counsel last month. He told Checkpoint on Friday that his client answered questions from Dahl from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 6, and from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 7. Given the complexity of the case and the amount of time that Bergdahl spent in captivity, it isn’t surprising that Dahl still needs more time to complete his report, Fidell said.
“My client answered every question he was asked,” Fidell said.
The interviews were done at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where Bergdahl has received care after returning to the United States on June 13. In July, he was given an administrative job by the Army.
“He’s in a holding pattern,” Fidell said of Bergdahl’s status with the Army. “Obviously nothing much is going to happen until this situation gets resolved.”
Earlier on Checkpoint:
War-zone deserter? If so, Bowe Bergdahl joins a fascinating and bizarre club