Dempsey Expects Bergdahl Court-Martial Decision 'Fairly Soon'

  • Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
    Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
  • Army Gen. Mark Milley
    Army Gen. Mark Milley

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Sunday that he expected a decision "fairly soon" on whether to court-martial Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for desertion or possibly other charges.

The decision on whether to charge Bergdahl will be made by Army Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Forces Command.

"I think he'll probably act fairly soon," Dempsey said on "Fox News Sunday" while offering no specific timeline.

"It would not only be inappropriate but illegal for us to pressure him [Milley] to a particular timeline," Dempsey said in noting that the appearance of "command influence" in the case must be avoided under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

A Pentagon statement on the case last month said that Milley would "determine appropriate action -- which ranges from no further action to convening a court-martial."

The Army's investigation of Bergdahl was led by Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, who completed his work last month. Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were briefed on the findings but the decision on how to proceed against Bergdahl was Milley's alone, based on Dahl's "findings of fact," Army officials said.

The 28-year-old Bergdahl was held by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network from June 2009 to May 2014 and was released in exchange for five Taliban prisoners at the Guantanamo naval base detention facilities in Cuba. The five prisoners were transferred to the custody of the Gulf state of Qatar.

The Army last month concluded its investigation on whether Bergdahl voluntarily left his post in Afghanistan, as has been alleged by several who served in his unit in Afghanistan. Since June, Bergdahl has been assigned to administrative duties at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Should Bergdahl be cleared, he would likely eligible for back pay that is traditionally provided to POWs. In Bergdahl's case, the sum could be more than $200,000.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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