By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - An Army general investigating the circumstances leading to the capture of former U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban will need several more weeks to complete a final report, a military spokesman said Friday.
Bergdahl spent five years in captivity before being released in May in a controversial exchange for five Taliban prisoners from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Some of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers have charged he had deserted in 2009 when he walked away from his combat outpost in Afghanistan under unclear circumstances and was later captured.
Major General Kenneth Dahl had 60 days from his June 16 appointment to determine if Bergdahl broke any military regulations or laws in connection to the incident but was allowed the extension he is now seeking, Army spokesman Wayne Hall said on Friday.
It will take about three weeks to complete a final draft of the investigative report and then it will undergo a separate legal review before it is presented to Army leadership, said Hall. The delay is tied to the possibility that Dahl may need to follow up on “outstanding issues” that Hall did not detail.
Bergdahl’s attorney registered no objection when asked to comment on the deadline extension.
“It is important that the investigation be complete, and we are confident that Major General Dahl would not ask for more time if it wasn’t necessary. Haste makes waste,” said Eugene Fidell, a military law expert who lectures at Yale University.
Fidell has said his client answered every question put to him openly and honestly though he could have refused to answer questions during an interview with Dahl that took place last Wednesday and Thursday at a military base in Texas.
The Army sergeant from Hailey, Idaho was read his rights under military law, notifying him that he was a potential defendant in a criminal case, before questioning.
Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Addicott, a former senior legal adviser to U.S. Army Special Forces, told Reuters in a previous interview that Dahl has many options, including recommending administrative punishment up to a general court martial, a medical disability retirement or that Bergdahl leave the Army.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)