- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2014

The Army announced Monday that it is referring the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to a four-star general who will decide whether to charge him criminally for leaving his base in 2009 in Afghanistan.

The Army gave the job of what the military calls a court-martial convening authority to Gen. Mark Milley, commander of Army Forces Command.

Gen. Milley has wide latitude. He can order a court-martial, or impose nonjudicial punishment, or take no action.

His decision will be based on an investigative report submitted in October by Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl. Sgt. Bergdahl’s former platoon mates accuse him of desertion on that June 30 when he walked away and became a captive of the Taliban and Haqqani network.

“The Army cannot discuss or disclose the findings of the investigation while disciplinary decisions are pending before commanders,” the Army said.

The fact the Army is assigning a convening authority indicates that Gen. Dahl found some type of misconduct.

SEE ALSO: Bowe Bergdahl court-martial would require an honorable discharge

“I’m glad it’s moving ahead,” said Eugene Fidell, a teacher at Yale Law School who is representing Sgt. Bergdahl. “It would have been nice to be able to close the book on this case before Christmas. That’s obviously not in the cards. I think everybody probably thinks it’s time to get this thing over. That’s what I hope the new year will bring.”

The Washington Times reported a wrinkle in the Bergdahl saga. Because Sgt. Bergdahl has completed his enlistment, Army regulations say he cannot be sent to an administrative board for discharge. He must either be given an honorable discharge or be referred for possible criminal charges, which is what the Army did Monday.

If Sgt. Bergdahl is charged, he can offer to take a less than honorable discharge in lieu of a court-martial. He remains in the Army on an administrative hold.

The Haqqani network freed Sgt. Bergdahl in May in exchange for five hardened Taliban leaders. Republicans said President Obama was putting U.S. troops in danger and failed to follow the law that required 60-days’ notice of released detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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