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Bowe Bergdahl pleads guilty in desertion case

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in Afghanistan. He is accused of endangering fellow soldiers who searched for him after he walked off his post.

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl , 31, who spent five years in captivity in Afghanistan after being taken by the Islamist Taliban, on Monday admitted leaving his post in Afghanistan's Paktika province in June 2009, but said he never wanted to put anyone at risk.

"I was captured by the enemy against my will," he told the court in Fort Bragg in the US state of North Carolina. "At the time I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations ... It's very inexcusable."

He said he got lost 20 minutes after leaving the combat outpost, and was captured by the Taliban two or three hours later.

In a podcast in 2015, he had said that he left his post to draw attention to "leadership failure" in his unit. He has, however, also previously rejected any notion that he sympathized with his captors, and said he was kept in a small cage for most of the time he was in captivity.

Life sentence possible

After Bergdahl entered his guilty pleas to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, which the judge accepted, the prosecutor, Major Justin Oshana, told the judge that there was no pretrial agreement between the two sides.

The charge of misbehavior before the enemy carries a possible life sentence.

Bergdahl was freed from Taliban captivity in 2014 after a prisoner swap arranged by the Obama administration — an exchange that was vehemently criticized by Republicans.

Bowe Bergdahl in a hostage video

Bergdahl was forced to make hostage videos while in captivity

Current US President Donald Trump also derided Bergdahl himself while on the campaign trail last year, calling him "a no-good traitor who should have been executed."

Bergdahl's lawyers have argued that such comments make it impossible for him to have a fair trial.

The judge decided in June to allow evidence of serious wounds to fellow soldiers who searched for Bergdahl at the sentencing phase, something that could weigh heavily against the accused.

The official search for him lasted for 45 days, with two soldiers wounded in firefights that the judge said they would not have become involved in if they hadn't been looking for Bergdahl.

tj/rt (AP, Reuters)

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