Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be prosecuted for the circumstances surrounding his capture by the Taliban, but is "innocent until proven guilty," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested Tuesday.
"As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts," Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said in a statement. "Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family."
The statement, sent to reporters by the White House, comes as the administration tries to quell a burgeoning controversy over President Barack Obama's decision to trade five prisoners from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to secure Bergdahl's release.
Soldiers who served with Bergdahl have accused him of deserting his post before his capture, and said other soldiers were later killed trying to rescue him. Dempsey defended Obama's decision.
"In response to those of you interested in my personal judgments about the recovery of SGT Bowe Bergdahl, the questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity," he said. "This was likely the last, best opportunity to free him."
Dempsey also acknowledged those who tried to secure Bergdahl's release.
"Finally, I want to thank those who for almost five years worked to find him, prepared to rescue him, and ultimately put themselves at risk to recover him," he said.