Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gen Milley, Bergdahl & Prosecution

The case of the Army deserter (Bergdahl) will soon be hitting the headlines. Bergdahl left his post in 2009 and was subsequently captured by the Taliban. His disappearance caused a major disruption of U.S. combat operations against the Taliban for a long period of time. The cost of his disappearance was immense in terms of time, money, energy, resources, and personnel. Combat units were pulled from their ongoing missions to search for Bergdahl in an attempt to rescue him. Scarce intelligence resources (SIGINT, drones, etc.) were diverted from ongoing and future missions to try and locate him. According to some sources - at least six members of the military died in combat conducting operations in search of Bergdahl.

The investigation of his disappearance and capture was conducted this past fall. A review of the investigation was conducted in November. The case has been referred to General Milley, the head of U.S. Forces Command located at Fort Bragg, NC; and he should be addressing it over the next few months. There are a surprising number of desertions that occur in the U.S. military. Since 2001 there have been over 1,900 cases of desertion prosecuted. Many of these cases are handled without going to court martial - Soldiers are administratively punished or medically discharged.

General Milley has wide discretion on how to handle this case. Milley, a former Special Forces detachment commander (in the early days of his military career), was recently the commander (as a three-star general) of the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) in 2013. Bergdahl is subject to court martial or lesser administrative action. He could be the recipient of actions that include counseling, reprimand, forfeiture of pay, reduction in rank, and / or separation from the Army. At stake for Bergdahl is avoiding imprisonment, losing almost $300,000 in pay, reduction in rank, and health care benefits. Read more in "Army deserters rarely face prosecution", PBS Newshour, December 24, 2014.

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