The Army is denying multiple reports that the service plans to charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion for leaving his post in Afghanistan before he was captured by the Taliban.
Fox News and NBC are citing anonymous defense officials saying the Army will charge Bergdahl when the results of the service's inquiry into the matter are announced.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, commander of Forces Command, is the command authority for Bergdahl's case. Army officials have said the investigation is complete but Milley is not yet prepared to make a decision on whether to charge Bergdahl.
"The reporting from Fox News and NBC on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is patently false. To be clear there have been no actions or decisions on the Sgt. Bergdahl investigation," the Army said in a statement.
"The investigation is still with the Commanding General of U.S. Army Forces Command who will determine appropriate action -which ranges from no further action to convening a court martial. We understand the public interest in this case and once a decision has been made, the Army will be open and transparent in this matter."
NBC is reporting the Army has already sent charge sheets to Bergdahl's lawyer, Eugene Fidell. Attempts to reach Fidell by Military.com to comment on the reports were not immediately returned.
Bergdahl was captured in 2009 while he was deployed to Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in the Paktika province of Afghanistan. He was held prisoner by the Taliban before he was released last May in exchange for the U.S. release of five Taliban leaders. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Former members of Bergdahl's unit have accused him of intentionally leaving his post before he was captured. The Army completed a six-month investigation into what led to Bergdahl's capture. Milley is reviewing the investigation before it is decided whether Bergdahl would be charged for desertion under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
Retired Lt. Col. Tony Schaffer first reported on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" that two defense officials told him that Bergdahl would be charged Monday night. On Tuesday morning, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski confirmed the report even as the Army continues to deny it.
NBC's Miklaszewski is reporting that the Army plans to charge Bergdahl with an offense beyond AWOL, or absence without leave, because he abandoned his assignment "in the middle of a combat zone, potentially putting the lives of his fellows soldiers at risk."
If Bergdahl is found guilty for desertion he could face jail time and a less than honorable discharge. Depending on the ruling, Bergdahl might not collect the nearly $300,000 of pay and benefits he potentially earned during his five years as a Taliban prisoner.
Bergdahl is currently assigned to a desk job at U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he is allowed to leave the base as he awaits the decision by Milley.
Schaffer said on Fox News that the White House and Army are at odds over the intentions of the service to charge Bergdahl. President Obama stood with Bergdahl's parents outside the White House for the press conference first announcing release.
"The White House, because of the political narrative, President Obama cozying up to the parents and because of he, President Obama, releasing the five Taliban ... The narrative is what the White House does not want to have come out," Schaffer said.
-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at email@example.com