San Antonio - Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl will take up a US Army desk job in San Antonio after weeks of counselling following his release from five years of captivity by the Afghan Taliban, officials said on Monday.
Bergdahl, who was freed in a prisoner exchange on May 31, will work at the Army North headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, where he “can contribute to the mission”, the Defence Department said, adding that he had completed “the final phase of the re-integration process”.
He was expected to formally start work in the next day or two, a US official said. Army North has a homeland security mission.
Bergdahl's return to regular duty marks a significant milestone in a case that stoked weeks of controversy amid questions of whether he deserted his post, whether President Barack Obama paid too high a price for his release and whether he put at risk the lives of soldiers who searched for him.
Some members of Congress accused the White House of bargaining with terrorists by exchanging Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners held at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. An inquiry is under way to decide whether Bergdahl intended to desert when he walked away from his combat outpost in 2009.
Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Bergdahl would be engaged in administrative duties. “Essentially, he'll be working a desk job,” he said. “Sergeant Bergdahl is not restricted in any way. He is a normal soldier now.”
Randy Mitchell, a spokesman for Army North, said there was no pressing need for Bergdahl to return to his unit and that he would have access, if needed, to continued counselling and therapy at the San Antonio army medical facility.
“The case is still under investigation, so it's easier to keep him here with us,” Mitchell said.
Bergdahl has been allowed to venture off base during several weeks of treatment at an Army hospital in Texas.
The Pentagon has said the Army was still investigating the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance in Afghanistan and subsequent capture by Taliban militants on June 30, 2009. - Reuters