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Saturday 20 September 2014

Soldier released from captivity by Taliban returns to US

Published 13/06/2014 | 12:21

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Freed soldier Bowe Bergdahl is thought to be heading for a reunion with his parents Jani and Bob Bergdahl
Freed soldier Bowe Bergdahl is thought to be heading for a reunion with his parents Jani and Bob Bergdahl

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who has been recovering in Germany after five years as a Taliban captive, is back in the United States, the Pentagon says.

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A Pentagon spokesman, rear admiral John Kirby, says Bergdahl arrived early today at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio on a flight from Ramstein Air Base. He is expected to be reunited there with his family.

He was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009 and released by the Taliban on May 31 in a deal struck by the Obama administration in which five Taliban officials were released from detention.

Kirby says that Bergdahl will "continue the next phase of his reintegration process" at the Texas base.

Before his departure from Germany on Thursday, officials in Washington said Bergdahl will not receive the automatic army promotion that would have taken effect this month if he were still in captivity.

Now that he is back in US military control, any future promotions would depend on his performance and achievement of certain training and education milestones.

Officials have kept a lid on details of Bergdahl's condition out of concern that he not be rushed back into the public spotlight after a lengthy period in captivity and amid a public uproar over the circumstances of his capture and release.

Officials also said Thursday that the army has not yet formally begun a new review into the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture and whether he walked away without leave or was deserting the army when he was found and taken by insurgents.

The answers to those questions will be key to whether Bergdahl will receive more than 300,000 dollars (£177,000) in back pay owed to him since he disappeared. If he was determined to have been a prisoner of war, he also could receive roughly another 300,000 dollars or more, if recommended and approved by army leaders.

Bergdahl was released from Taliban captivity on May 31 and has been at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany since June 1.

Many have criticised the Obama administration for agreeing to release five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl. Some of Bergdahl's former army colleagues have accused him of deserting his post.

Critics also have said the five Taliban members could return to the battlefield. Administration officials have told Congress that four of the five Taliban officials will probably rejoin the fight.

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