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Freed war prisoner Bergdahl arrives at Army medical center in Texas -Pentagon

Source: Reuters - Fri, 13 Jun 2014 14:46 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds plans for news conference, statement from family)

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO, June 13 (Reuters) - Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years as a Taliban prisoner of war before being released on May 31, has arrived at an Army medical center in Texas where he will receive further treatment, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Bergdahl left Ramstein Air Base in Germany aboard a military plane on Thursday afternoon and arrived early on Friday in San Antonio, where he will be cared for at the Brooke Army Medical Center.

"While there, he will continue the next phase of his reintegration process. There is no timeline for this process. Our focus remains on his health and well-being," Kirby said.

The Army command that runs the San Antonio Military Medical Facility on Fort Sam Houston plans to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) to discuss how it will treat the soldier.

Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. forces in Afghanistan on May 31 in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo prison in Cuba. Bergdahl's initial release sparked a wave of support that was quickly overshadowed by political uproar over the freeing of the senior Taliban members.

Lawmakers criticized the Obama administration for failing to give them 30 days' notice before transferring prisoners from Guantanamo as required by law. Some charged that in doing the exchange, the administration had effectively violated its policy against negotiating with terrorists.

Some of Bergdahl's former comrades in Afghanistan also voiced anger, alleging that he had deserted when he walked away from his outpost in circumstances that are unclear and was later captured.

Kirby said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had expressed confidence the Army will continue to ensure Bergdahl "receives the care, time and space he needs to complete his recovery and reintegration".

The military hospital has teams of specialists and has been helping returning prisoners of war for decades.

Bergdahl's parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, were expected to travel to Texas from their Idaho home, although it was not immediately clear when, or whether they had spoken with Bowe.

In a statement released on behalf of the family, the Bergdahls said they do not intend to make their travel plans public.

"They ask for continued privacy as they concentrate on their son's reintegration," the statement said. (Additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington; Writing by Eric M. Johnson and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Catherine Evans and Susan Heavey)

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