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Ex-POW Bergdahl returns to military duty: US Army

This image from video released on June 4, 2014 by Al-Emara, posted on the official website of the Taliban, reportedly shows US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl before his release
A video image released on June 4, 2014 by Taliban website Al-Emara appears to show US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl sitting in a pick-up truck at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan before his handover to US forces after five years in captivity

An American soldier who was held captive by Afghan insurgents for nearly five years returned to regular military duty Monday and will be taking a "desk job," the Pentagon said.

Following his release on May 31 in a swap with the Taliban, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl underwent medical exams and counseling at a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas, to prepare him for "reintegration" into the army.

"He will now return to regular duty within the command where he can contribute to the mission," the US Army said in a statement.

Bergdahl will be assigned to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where he will be handling "administrative-type" work, the Pentagon said.

"Essentially he'll be working a desk job," spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

Bergdahl remains the subject of a military investigation into the circumstances of his disappearance and capture, he said.

Jani Bergdahl, the mother of freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, speaks to the press at the White House while her husband Bob Bergdahl and US President Barack Obama look on, May 31, 2014 in Washington, DC
Jani Bergdahl, the mother of freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, speaks to the press while her husband Bob Bergdahl and US President Barack Obama look on in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 31, 2014 in Washington, DC

There has long been speculation that Bergdahl may have deserted his post, with some soldiers in his unit alleging he walked away alone.

The 28-year-old soldier has yet to speak to the media since his release and army officials acknowledged they provided him with advice on dealing with reporters, which they said was standard practice for former prisoners of war.

Bergdahl, the only American in uniform to be held by insurgents in the Afghanistan war, spent nearly five years in captivity at the hands of Taliban-linked Haqqani insurgents after he went missing from his post in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border in June 2009.

During his time at the Texas military hospital, counselors tried to help Bergdahl shift away from a prisoner's survival mentality, officials said.

Bergdahl was now free to move about as other soldiers without special restrictions and will be paid regular wages according to his rank, officials said.

Retired US Army Spc. Cody Full, who served with Sargent Bergdahl in Blackfoot Company, listens during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on Capitol Hill June 18, 2014 in Washington, DC
Retired US Army Spc. Cody Full, who served with Sargent Bergdahl in Blackfoot Company, listens during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on Capitol Hill June 18, 2014 in Washington, DC

"Sergeant Bergdahl is not restricted in any way. He's a normal soldier," Warren said.

- Swap sparked controversy -

President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism from some lawmakers over the swap that freed Bergdahl.

Republicans say the administration made a dangerous concession by agreeing to the transfer of five senior Taliban figures to Qatar from the US-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

They say the White House failed to consult with Congress before agreeing the deal and that the transfer of the Taliban detainees would put the United States at risk.

Lawmakers also have held hearings focused on the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance.

Soldiers who deployed alongside Bergdahl have alleged he was frustrated during his deployment and planned to walk off the base.

Former army specialist Cody Full, who served in the same squad in Blackfoot Company as Bergdahl, told lawmakers last month that he was a conflicted soldier who carried out a "pre-meditated" plan.

"He didn't understand why we were doing more humanitarian aid drops, setting up clinics, and helping the populous instead of hunting the Taliban," Full told a House Foreign Affairs panel.

Bergdahl was a "good soldier" during training in California, but shortly after arriving in Afghanistan he started complaining about the way missions were conducted, Full said.

The Obama administration has defended its handling of the case, saying the government has an obligation to bring all US soldiers home and that an investigation will show if Bergdahl violated his orders or duties.

Some retired soldiers have alleged that several troops died in search efforts for Bergdahl, but the Pentagon has said there is no evidence to support that charge.

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