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By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s long road to recovery took another step forward Sunday when military officials announced that the former prisoner-of-war had become an outpatient at the Texas military base where he is being treated.

Bergdahl, 28, had been receiving inpatient treatment at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Now, U.S. Army officials said, he is receiving outpatient care at the base.

“His reintegration process continues with exposure to more people and a gradual increase of social interactions,” the Army said in a statement. “Debriefings and counseling from Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) psychologists continue to ensure he progresses to the point where he can return to duty.”

Bergdahl has been under the close care of military medical personnel since Taliban-allied forces released him May 31 after five years of captivity.

In exchange, five Taliban leaders were released from Guantanamo Bay and sent to Qatar, creating a torrent of controversy — especially after some former colleagues accused Bergdahl of desertion.

An initial Army investigation concluded that Bergdahl left his remote base in eastern Afghanistan without permission in June 2009, but his motive remains unclear. Some soldiers who served with Bergdahl said he deserted his post, imperiling fellow soldiers who were forced to search for him. The military is investigating.

Bergdahl initially received treatment in Germany, and has been in San Antonio for care since June 13.

Officials at the Texas hospital have said they wanted to help Bergdahl regain his physical and emotional stability.

While receiving inpatient care, he was being held in a hospital room without access to a television or to Army personnel other than the officials who are helping reintegrate him back into service.

Bergdahl is from Hailey, Idaho.

AFP Photo/Scott Olson

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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