- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2017

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who walked off his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and ended up in Taliban captivity for five years, will not be sent to prison on charges of desertion, a military court ruled Friday.

Sgt. Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, was facing a maximum sentence of life in prison before being sentenced to a reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.

In addition, the military court ordered him to pay restitution in the form of forfeited pay equal to $1,000 a month for 10 months, The Associated Press reported. Army prosecutors had sought a jail sentence of 14 months for the now discredited soldier.

Sgt. Bergdahl does not have a monopoly on suffering as a result of his choices,” said Maj. Justin Oshana, a prosecutor, the AP reported Friday.

Sgt. Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing had come under political fire when President Trump reiterated his calls for the solider to receive the harshest punishment possible. When asked what Sgt. Bergdahl’s fate should be, after his guilty plea last month, Mr. Trump replied “people have heard my comments in the past.”

During his 2016 presidential run, Mr. Trump repeatedly said Sgt. Bergdahl should be shot for his actions. Col. Jeffery Nance, the military judge overseeing the trial, said he took Mr. Trump’s comments into consideration before handing down his verdict Friday, The New York Times reported.

The lack of jail time is sure to come as a shock to some inside the military, who saw Bergdahl’s actions as endangering fellow soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines who searched relentlessly for the capture Army sergeant.

Sgt. Bergdahl apologized during Friday’s sentencing hearing for putting his fellow service members in harm’s way as part of attempted rescue operations launched by American commanders in Afghanistan at the time. But his defense team argued their client had suffered just as much while in Taliban captivity.

Prior to his court-martial, Sgt. Bergdahl provided in gut-wrenching detail an account of the physical and mental torture he experienced at the hands of the Taliban, during the second season of NPR’s “Serial” podcast.

Sgt. Bergdahl admitted he left eastern Afghanistan outpost OP Mest for Forward Operating Base Sharana along the Afghan-Pakistan border in 2009, because he “wanted to try to stir controversy in order to get the attention of top military officials so he could explain problems he saw in the Army,” he said as part of a series of extensive interviews for the hit NPR podcast.

In the end, Sgt. Bergdahl was rescued as part of a prisoner exchange deal orchestrated by the Obama administration. He was released by his Taliban captors in 2015 in exchange for five Afghan detainees who were being held at the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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