Expert: Bergdahl could “just be administratively processed” out

Charles Stimson

Charles Stimson with the Heritage Foundation talked with C-SPAN on Wednesday about the Bergdahl affair. (Snip: C-SPAN video at

Charles Stimson talked to C-SPAN on Wednesday about possible charges U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl might face as he proceeds through a maze of procedural steps related to circumstances behind his capture.

Stimson is manager of the National Security Law Program for the Heritage Foundation. Stimson has an extensive background in military law and detainee policy as well as service as a military trial judge.

As many Americans clamor for more information about the mystery surrounding Bergdahl’s alleged capture by the Taliban, Stimson stressed to C-SPAN that there must be a thorough and objective investigation before any other actions can be taken.

While public criticism of Bergdahl has included accusations of desertion and even colluding with the enemy, Stimson’s explanations of some points in the Uniform Code of Military Justice made it clear that Bergdahl may not face serious punishment.

As a matter of fact, Stimson said Bergdahl “could just be administratively processed out of the military.”

Among charges that a soldier who abandons his post under certain circumstances might face are:

Article 85: Desertion
Article 86: Unauthorized Absence
Article 99: Misbehavior Before the Enemy

Stimson told C-SPAN he doubts Bergdahl would ever go to a civilian court; it’s more likely the soldier would be “administratively held to account.”

Ironically, if Bergdahl is allowed to retire, he would collect his back pay. Presumably that would be based on his current rank of sergeant; Bergdahl was promoted twice while he was held by the Taliban.

Stimson also said there is no charge in the military for treason.

The government is expected to update an earlier investigation of the situation that led to Bergdahl’s captivity, and the 5 years he spent in captivity would likely factor into any sentence he receives.

Asked about the 5 Taliban President Barack Obama released from Guantanamo Bay [Gitmo], Stimson pointed out that the idea was rejected by Leon Panetta when he was Secretary of Defense.

Although some in media claim the Taliban release could harm Obama’s chances for closing Gitmo, Stimson said the goal all along has been to close the facility “through attrition.” The majority of those still in custody are from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.

The question of negotiating with the Taliban has bothered many people, but a political nuance exists because technically, the Qataris negotiated with the group and acted as intermediary.

“We’re negotiating with elements of the Taliban because we have to,” said Stimson.

The response in Afghanistan, both from government and media, has been negative. The Afghanistan Times, an independent newspaper, said Taliban is increasing its size and scope ahead of the upcoming presidential election. The paper accused America of having a “soft stance on aggression,” also claiming Pakistan “harbors, feeds and sponsors feted terrorists sprawling along the tribal belt.”

On Tuesday as debate about Bergdahl and the Taliban exchange raged across the U.S., The Afghanistan Times reported seven Taliban were arrested in the capital of Kabul:

“The source added that the group was involved in numerous terrorist activities in parts of Kabul.

The detained militants have confessed that they were plotting to carry out attacks during the second round of election in Kabul.

According to the source, the militants were deployed to Kabul after receiving trainings in Miranshah tribal region in Pakistan.”

Stimson said where detainee releases are concerned, “There’s never a risk free release.”

Some data indicate that of one population of detainees tracked by the Director of National Intelligence, roughly 29 percent were either confirmed as re-engaging in terrorism or were suspected of re-engaging.

Related Sources

Bowe Bergdahl May Face Desertion Charges. Here’s How the Process Works. (Stimson; Daily Signal; 6/3/2014)

Uniform Code of Military Justice (U.S. Air Force)

Featured Photo: Charles Stimson with the Heritage Foundation talked with C-SPAN on Wednesday about the Bergdahl affair. (Snip: C-SPAN video at

(Filed by Kay B. Day/June 4, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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