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U.S. Army Will Not Look Away From Any Bergdahl Misconduct: Dempsey

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[June 03, 2014]  (Reuters) - The U.S. Army will not look away from any misconduct by released Taliban detainee Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, but he should be considered innocent until proven guilty, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

"The questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity," General Martin Dempsey said in a posting on his Facebook page.

Bergdahl, held for nearly five years in Afghanistan, was freed last week in a prisoner-swap deal with the Taliban brokered by the Qatari government. Five Taliban militants were released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and flown to Qatar.

"This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him," Dempsey said. "As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts ... In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family."

Bergdahl was captured in unknown circumstances in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, about two months after arriving in the country. Many U.S. government officials say they believe he was seized after walking away from his unit in violation of U.S. military regulations.

On Monday, Republican members of the U.S. Congress said President Barack Obama had set a dangerous precedent with the prisoner swap and might have broken the law.

Fueling the criticism were accusations by some soldiers that Bergdahl was a deserter who cost the lives of several comrades.

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On Monday, the State Department said it considered Bergdahl a member of the military who was detained while in combat. The Pentagon said it was unable to confirm media reports that troops had been killed trying to locate Bergdahl following his June 2009 disappearance.

The Pentagon says Bergdahl is in stable condition at the U.S. Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where doctors were assessing his condition after five years of captivity. Officials have indicated there is little desire to pursue any disciplinary action against him given what he has been through.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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