Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl back in U.S.

Last Updated Jun 13, 2014 11:16 AM EDT

WASHINGTON -- Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who has been recovering in Germany after five years as a Taliban captive, returned to the United States early Friday to continue his medical treatment.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Bergdahl was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio from Ramstein Air Base.

While at the Texas Army base, Bergdahl "will continue the next phase of his reintegration process," Kirby said, adding there was no timeline for the process.

"Our focus remains on his health and well-being," he said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "is confident that the Army will continue to ensure that Sgt. Bergdahl receives the care, time and space he needs to complete his recovery and reintegration," the spokesman said in a statement.

Officials in Washington said Bergdahl would be reunited with his family at Brooke and spend an undetermined period there in further recuperation.

It was not clear when his family would arrive at the Army base. In a statement released early Friday via the Idaho National Guard, Bergdahl's family asked for privacy as they prepare to see their son for the first time in years.

"While the Bergdahls are overjoyed that their son has returned to the United States, Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl don't intend to make any travel plans public," spokesman Col. Tim Marsano.

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl waits in a pick-up truck before he is freed

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl waits in a pick-up truck before he is freed at the Afghan border, in this still image from video released June 4, 2014.

REUTERS

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 senior Taliban officials were released from detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The prisoner swap that gained Bergdahl's release has proven highly controversial, with some troops who served with him saying he was a deserter, and with many lawmakers saying the Obama administration gave up too much in the trade and didn't notify Congress about it within the time frame required by law.

The Army issued a statement Friday saying Bergdahl would continue to get medical treatment -- and debriefings. "Following Sgt. Bergdahl's reintegration, the Army will continue its comprehensive review into the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity," the statement said.

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 U.S. military control, any future promotions would depend on his performance and achievement of certain training and education milestones.

Officials had said previously that the intention was for Bergdahl to be reunited with his family at Brooke and to spend an undetermined period there in further recuperation.

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 in back pay owed to him since he disappeared. If he is determined to have been a prisoner of war, he also could receive roughly another $300,000 or more, if recommended and approved by Army leaders.

Bergdahl had been at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany since June 1.

Many have criticized 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 likely will rejoin the fight.

In congressional testimony Wednesday, Hagel called the former Taliban government officials "enemy belligerents" but said they hadn't been implicated in any attacks against the United States. He said Qatar, which has agreed to keep the five inside the country for a year, promised sufficient security measures to warrant making the swap for Bergdahl.

Hagel also said Bergdahl was early in the process of recovering from the trauma of captivity. He said that process began with his arrival at Landstuhl.

"He's being held there because our medical professionals don't believe he's ready. ... This isn't just about a physical situation," Hagel said. "This guy was held for almost five years in God knows what kind of conditions. ... This is not just about can he get on his feet and walk and get to a plane."

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