By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) – Freed U.S. prisoner-of-war Bowe Bergdahl is expected to submit to questioning next week by the U.S. Army general probing the circumstances that led to the his 2009 capture by the Taliban, Bergdahl’s attorney said on Tuesday.
Bergdahl, an Army sergeant, was introduced to the investigating officer, Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, and is expected to be questioned by him next week in Texas in an informal setting, said the soldier’s lawyer, Eugene Fidell.
“They’ve said hello to one another. It was literally a meeting to introduce themselves to one another,” said Fidell, a military law expert who lectures at Yale University.
Bergdahl was released in May in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who were transferred to Qatar from the Guantanamo Bay U.S. prison in Cuba.
Critics have questioned whether the Obama administration paid too high a price and whether Bergdahl had deserted his combat outpost in Afghanistan before his capture.
Bergdahl, 28, has completed counseling and a reintegration program and been assigned a desk job at a Texas military base as the Army investigates events that led to five years of imprisonment by captors whom Fidell has described as ruthless killers.
Fidell is to advise Bergdahl during the session with the Army general probing the case, and Dahl is expected to have his own legal counsel present as well, he said.
The investigation was to be completed 60 days from the time of Dahl’s appointment on June 16 but an extended deadline may be needed, Fidell said.
“There may be an extension in this case. It’s a complicated matter with a lot of witnesses,” he said.
A senior Army officer has said the purpose of the probe was to determine facts and circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance up to the point of capture.
Dahl’s finding and recommendations will be presented to the director of Army staff, who is not bound by the conclusions and who could issue his own determinations and recommendations.
Fidell said Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, is to remain under the Army’s authority pending the outcome of the inquiry.
“He’s on hold until matters are resolved,” he said.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Sandra Maler)