Washington (AFP) – The U.S. soldier freed in a controversial swap with the Afghan Taliban arrived back in the United States Friday, his latest step in a return to normalcy after five years in captivity.
The Pentagon said Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrived in the middle of the night on a flight from Germany to San Antonio, Texas where he will continue treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center.
Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. special forces in Afghanistan on May 31 in return for five senior Taliban detainees who were sent to Qatar from the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects.
The U.S. Army sergeant had been recuperating at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, amid growing debate over the swap that secured his freedom, with some U.S. lawmakers accusing President Barack Obama of capitulating to “terrorists.”
The Pentagon said in a one-paragraph statement on its website that in Texas the soldier will “continue the next phase of his reintegration process. There is no timeline for this process. Our focus remains on his health and well-being.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “is confident that the Army will continue to ensure that Sgt. Bergdahl receives the care, time and space that he needs to complete his recovery and reintegration.”
Bergdahl has yet to speak to the news media about his ordeal and Pentagon officials have said his health has steadily improved in the days since his release.
He is expected to be reunited with his family in Texas.
Depending on what psychologists recommend, his first meeting with his family may last just a few minutes, army spokeswoman Arwen Consaul said, according to CNN.
His disappearance from a base in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 fueled speculation that the soldier deserted his post before he was captured and that he may face prosecution by military authorities.
Letters and other correspondence emerged this week suggesting Bergdahl was in a troubled state of mind before and during his deployment, and that he lacked confidence in his superiors.
“Leadership was lacking, if not non-existent,” he wrote in a letter sent to family during his time in captivity that was obtained by The Daily Beast website.
The letter, one of two sent to Bergdahl’s family via the International Committee of the Red Cross, is marked by numerous spelling errors.
“The conditions were bad and looked to be getting worse for the men that where actuly the ones risking thier lives from attack [sic],” he wrote in a March 23, 2013 letter.
Bergdahl also appeared to appeal for understanding over his disappearance, though he does not explicitly state that he deserted.
It remained unclear to what degree his captors from the Haqqani network — extremists allied with the Taliban — were dictating what he should write to his family.
“If this letter makes it to the USA, tell those involved in the investigation that there are more sides to the cittuwation [sic],” he wrote.
“Please tell DC to wait for all evadince [sic] to come in.”
Copies of the two letters were passed to the website by sources in contact with the Taliban, The Daily Beast said.
Bergdahl opens the letter to his family in Idaho saying he missed the Thanksgiving holiday and then recounts the “bad” conditions that prevailed during his deployment with U.S. forces.
The circumstances from the start of his time in Afghanistan were “bad for troopers” and orders from officers “showed a high disconcer for safty of troopers in the field [sic],” he wrote.
Bergdahl said there were “unexceptable conditions for the men working and risking life every moment outside the wire.”
After he went missing in 2009, the military said he was “absent without leave.”
A journal kept by Bergdahl as well as correspondence and interviews with his friends convey a sensitive, fragile personality ill-suited to the conventions of the military.
Officials acknowledged Wednesday that Bergdahl had been discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2006, before he joined the army, for what authorities said was a failure “to adapt to military life.”
Bergdahl’s friends were dismayed and surprised when they learned he had signed up for the army in 2008 following his abbreviated stint in the Coast Guard.
A journal and other writings obtained by The Washington Post that date back to the months before he disappeared indicate he was struggling to keep a grip on his mental stability.
“I am the lone wolf of deadly nothingness,” Bergdahl wrote in one passage quoted by the Post.