Freed soldier Bergdahl starting his ‘re-integration into society’

Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who was a prisoner of war in Afghanistan for five years, has been allowed to venture off the Texas military base where he is receiving care as part of his “reintegration process” into society, the US army said.

Sergeant Bergdahl has been allowed to go, with supervision, to a grocery store, restaurants, shopping centres and a library as part of the process of getting him comfortable with being out in public, spokeswoman Arwen Consaul said.

Sgt Bergdahl, 28, has been receiving care at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio since returning to the US on June 13. He was initially treated at Brooke Army Medical Centre at the fort but was shifted last week to outpatient care at the military base.

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He was freed 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. Sgt Bergdahl had disappeared from his post in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. Some former members of his unit have said that he left of his own accord.

He has not commented publicly on the circumstances of his disappearance, and the military has made no charges against him. The army has said it is investigating Sgt Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture, but that investigators will not interview him until those helping him recover say it is all right to do so.

His “reintegration process” has slowly increased his exposure to social settings and groups of people, giving him “a little bit more every day”, Ms Consaul said.

It began with going to facilities at Fort Sam Houston, including the commissary and the gym, and has progressed to going into San Antonio and visiting various businesses. On these visits, Sgt Bergdahl is accompanied by members of his reintegration team including a psychologist.

The process is about getting him “comfortable with being out in public and interacting with large groups of people”, Ms Consaul said.

It is not known if Sgt Bergdahl’s family has seen him since his return to the US. No time has been set for when his reintegration process will finish.