Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — infamous for having walked off his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 — will face a general court-martial by order of the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command.
Gen. Robert B. Abrams decided to convene a general court-martial for Bergdahl despite Army lawyers recommending against it, said CNN.
The special court-martial that Army lawyers recommended would have been able to impose up to a year of confinement. The general court-martial Bergdahl will face instead can impose a life sentence if he is convicted of misbehavior before the enemy.
Bergdahl testified that he left his outpost in an attempt to reach a U.S. base 18 miles away so that he could report what he saw as failing leadership in his platoon. He was instead captured quickly by the Taliban who held him for almost five years before he was traded in a prisoner exchange that saw five Taliban detainees released from Guantanomo Bay, Cuba.
There was speculation that the case would end without significant prison time after two senior officers assigned to the investigation recommended against it.
The officer in charge of the investigation into Bergdahl, Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, testified that jail-time would be inappropriate for Bergdahl. His investigation found no evidence that troops died while specifically searching for the sergeant or that Bergdahl was attempting to reach India, China, or the Taliban, said the New York Times.
The Army lawyer who presided over a preliminary hearing into the case also recommended against a court-martial. Lt. Col. Mark Visager had recommended the special court-martial that could have only imposed a 1-year prison sentence.
Abrams held the final decision about whether to convene a general court-martial, and he did so despite the recommendations against it.
Bergdahl’s case is currently the focus of season 2 of “Serial,” a podcast that became extremely popular in its first season where it investigated the murder of Hae Min Lee.