SAN ANTONIO — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “looked good” after arriving back in the United States and is working daily with health professionals after being held by the Taliban for five years, military officials said Friday.
Bergdahl’s family has not joined him since he arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston after midnight Friday, and Army officials would not say when relatives might show up.
Col. Bradley Poppen, an Army psychologist, said during a news conference Friday that a soldier typically determines when to reunite with his or her family. Poppen declined to release further details, citing the family’s request for privacy.
Maj. Gen. Joseph P. DiSalvo said Bergdahl was in stable condition, “looked good” and showed “good comportment” after being transported to Texas from an Army medical facility in Germany.
“The reintegration of Sgt. Bergdahl is comprehensive. There is no set timeline,” said DiSalvo, who will be in charge of that process.
Military officials declined to give details on what Bergdahl might remember about his capture or what he knows about the public uproar surrounding his capture and release.
“We want to gradually titrate that exposure to him,” Col. Bradley Poppen said.
Army officials briefed the media at a golf course near Fort Sam Houston and said no reporters would be allowed onto the base or in the hospital.
Officials have kept a lid on details of Bergdahl’s condition out of concern that he not be rushed back into the public spotlight.
The Idaho native was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009 and released by the Taliban on May 31 in a deal struck by the Obama administration in which five senior Taliban officials were released from detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and flown to the Gulf emirate of Qatar.
The Army has not formally begun a new review into the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture and whether he walked away without leave from his post or was deserting the Army when he was found and taken by insurgents.
In a statement Friday, the Army said that after Bergdahl’s reintegration it would “continue its comprehensive review into the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity.”
The answers to those questions will be key to whether Bergdahl will receive more than $300,000 in back pay owed to him since he disappeared. If he was determined to have been a prisoner of war, he also could receive roughly another $300,000 or more, if recommended and approved by Army leaders.
Before his departure from Germany on Thursday, officials in Washington said Bergdahl would not receive the automatic Army promotion that would have taken effect this month if he were still in captivity. Now that he is back in U.S. military control, any promotions would depend on his performance and achievement of certain training and education milestones.
Bergdahl had been at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany since June 1, the day after the prisoner exchange.
Many have criticized the Obama administration for agreeing to release five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl. Some of Bergdahl’s former Army colleagues have accused him of deserting his post.
Critics also have said the five Taliban members could return to the battlefield. Administration officials have told Congress that four of the five Taliban officials likely will rejoin the fight.
In congressional testimony Wednesday, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel called the former Taliban government officials “enemy belligerents” but said they hadn’t been implicated in any attacks against the United States. He said Qatar, which has agreed to keep the five inside the country for a year, promised sufficient security measures to warrant making the swap for Bergdahl.
Hagel also said Bergdahl was early in the process of recovering from the trauma of captivity.
“This guy was held for almost five years in God knows what kind of conditions,” Hagel said. “This is not just about ’Can he get on his feet and walk and get to a plane.”’