U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been accused of deserting his post in Afghanistan, has been charged with the seldom-used infraction "misbehavior before the enemy" -- a law that has rarely been imposed since World War II.
Bergdahl, who was also charged with desertion, will face a possible life sentence if convicted, the Washington Post reported. The charge claims Bergdahl “left without authority; and wrongfully caused search and recovery operations.”
The soldier was captured in June 2009 by the Taliban and held for five years after he abandoned his post. Bergdahl was released after U.S. government agreed last year to trade five Taliban militants from Guantanamo Bay.
But soldiers who served alongside Bergdahl criticized the deal. They said Bergdahl's alleged decision to desert put the lives of soldiers in his unit at risk as they searched for him. Others said the search diverted resources from other units.
Some former platoon mates applauded the charges the U.S. army brought Monday.
"The Army did the right thing here," Cody Full told USA Today adding, "You give an oath. You sign your name to serve your country. No matter what you're supposed to fill that oath."
A 2012 Rolling Stone article brought to light information about Bergdahl's service and the circumstances under which he was captured -- about which soldiers who served with him claim they were pressured to stay mum. The article said he had become disillusioned about his service and emailed his father, writing, "The horror that is [A]merica is disgusting."
Nathan Bethea, a former soldier in his unit, told the Daily Beast last June Bergdahl fled the post on foot after being relieved from guard duty one night.
"Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down," Bethea said.
Bergdahl's attorney raised concerns his client will not be able to get a fair trial if information regarding the case continues to be released.
"We ask all Americans to withhold judgment until all the facts emerge," attorney Eugene Fidell told USA Today.
Bergdahl has not been placed under arrest or under any form of confinement, the Army said. His initial court appearance, known as an Article 32 hearing, is set for Sept. 17 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.