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Bowe Bergdahl Likely to Be Charged With Desertion, Officials Say

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by enemy forces in Afghanistan for five years, will likely be charged with desertion, senior defense officials tell NBC News.

The officials point out that Bergdahl will likely face a lesser charge of desertion described in the Uniform Code of Military Justice as leaving a post to avoid duty or shirk an important assignment, based on his actions when he left a remote outpost in June 2009.

Those charges carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison upon conviction, but sources tell NBC News the Army is considering crediting Bergdahl for the 5 years he spent in captivity and be given the opportunity to avoid prosecution by leaving the Army with a "less than honorable discharge."

If accepted, Bergdahl could be denied as much as $300,000 in back pay and benefits and be reduced in rank from Sergeant to Private First Class or lower.

The charges will apparently not allege that Bergdahl left with the intent never to return. Bergdahl was reportedly captured by the Haqqani terrorist network in Pakistan and was later released in a prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay in May.

Army General Mark Milley, the command authority in the Bergdahl case, has not publicly released his findings, and Pentagon Spokesman Read Admiral Kirby reiterated said on Tuesday that "no decision has been made" yet.

— Jim Miklaszewski