FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his base in Afghanistan in 2009, setting off a military manhunt and political furor, pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy on Monday before a military judge in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Sergeant Bergdahl, 31, was held captive by the Taliban for five years before the Obama administration traded him in 2014 for five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
He was charged with desertion, which carries a potential five-year sentence, and with misbehavior — essentially, endangering the troops who were sent to search for him — which carries a potential life sentence.
The negotiations for his release became a presidential campaign issue and an attacking point for Republican critics of President Obama’s foreign policy. Last year, as a candidate, Donald J. Trump repeatedly called the sergeant a “traitor” and called for him to be executed.
Sergeant Bergdahl had a different explanation, telling the Army’s chief investigator, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, that he decided to leave his base so he could walk to a larger base about 18 miles away in order to report what he felt were leadership problems in his own unit.
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