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Former POW Bergdahl seeks to return to civilian life, lawyer says

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Freed U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years as a captive of the Taliban in Afghanistan and now faces a U.S. Army probe into his conduct, wants to leave the military and return to civilian life, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

"He is ready to move on to the next chapter of his life," Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell, told Reuters. "He would like to get a college education."

Bergdahl, 28, an Army sergeant, was released by the Taliban in May in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who were taken to Qatar from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The prisoner swap triggered an outcry from critics of the Obama administration amid accusations by some members of Bergdahl’s Army unit that he had deserted before being captured by the Taliban.

After his release, Bergdahl went through a reintegration program and counseling at a military hospital in San Antonio. He has returned to active military duty with a desk job in an office at Fort Sam Houston.

Fidell said the fact Bergdahl wants to leave the Army did not surprise him.

"People who have had this kind of experience, in my understanding, tend not to remain in the service," Fidell said. "It is time for Sergeant Bergdahl to just become plain old Bowe Bergdahl and move on with his life."

An Army general is investigating how Bergdahl, from Hailey, Idaho, came to be a prisoner of the Taliban.

Major General Kenneth Dahl, who is leading the investigation, had 60 days from his June 16 appointment to determine if Bergdahl broke any military regulations or laws in connection to the incident, but has been granted an extension, the Army said.

Dahl could recommend no punishment and simply allow Bergdahl to leave the Army with an honorable discharge. He could also recommend an administrative punishment, like loss of rank or a less than honorable discharge, which would affect Bergdahl’s ability to receive veterans’ benefits. He could also recommend court-martial on criminal charges.

"I would certainly like for him to have veterans’ benefits, of course," Fidell said. 

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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