Bowe Bergdahl to face desertion charges: NBC

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl will be charged with desertion for disappearing from his base in Afghanistan in 2009, NBC News reported on Tuesday. Bergdahl, who was released from captivity last year in a controversial Taliban prisoner swap, could be charged within a week, the television network said, quoting senior defense officials who were not identified by name. However, senior Army and defense officials contacted by Reuters could not confirm the report. The officer in charge of the case, General Mark Milley, is reviewing facts and findings submitted by Army investigators last month and has not publicly said whether he will file charges, said spokesman Jim Hinnant. Milley heads the Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based U.S. Forces Command. Milley is expected to make a decision soon on whether the findings merit a court-martial or some form of administrative punishment. The general also could decide no action against Bergdahl is warranted. Bergdahl's attorney, New Haven, Connecticut-based Eugene Fidell, declined to comment on NBC's report. Bergdahl is stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he is working as a clerk. The soldier, who spent five years in captivity after leaving his post, was released in May in exchange for five prisoners from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The deal was blasted by some Republicans, and some of his fellow soldiers called him a deserter. If officials conclude that Bergdahl broke U.S. military law, they could force him to forfeit hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay accumulated during his captivity and give up future benefits, NBC said. According to the network, charges against Bergdahl will not say that he left the base with the intent to never return. Citing defense and military officials, the network also said that he could be given a less than honorable discharge. He would also likely be given consideration for his time in captivity, NBC quoted officials as saying. (Reporting by Susan Heavey, David Alexander; Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Texas; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)