WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military announced Wednesday that it has charged Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with one count of desertion and one count of misbehavior before the enemy by endangering his unit. Army officials said they were referring the case to a preliminary hearing.
The 28-year-old Hailey, Idaho, native became the only known American prisoner of war in Afghanistan after his disappearance from his base in 2009. Last year, Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. forces by the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees who were being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
The exchange sparked a firestorm of criticism directed at the Obama administration, which helped broker the deal. Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and John McCain of Arizona, assailed President Barack Obama for releasing "the hardest of the hard core" mid- to high-ranking Taliban militants that were held at the facility since it opened in 2002.
The White House maintained that his return home and his ensuing recovery was "a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield."
Adding fuel to the flames, the Government Accountability Office later said that the administration violated the law by carrying out the transfer of prisoners without giving lawmakers a required 30-day notice.
Several of Bergdahl's former squad mates also criticized the swap, calling him a "deserter" who became disillusioned while in Afghanistan.