Released from Taliban in prisoner exchange, Bowe Bergdahl pleads guilty to desertion

U.S. Army  Getty Images In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag

Trump described Bergdahl as a "dirty rotten traitor" during his presidential campaign, suggesting he should be executed.

The risky search for him that ensued - and the Taliban prisoner swap that won his release in 2014 - drew wide derision from soldiers and Republicans.

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the US Army. "I understand leaving was against the law". The defense also was rebuffed in an effort to prove President Donald Trump had unfairly swayed the case with scathing criticism of Bergdahl, including suggestions of harsh punishment.

Bergdahl, who remains on active duty in a clerical job at a base in San Antonio, said he tried to escape his captors up to 15 times. He was released in a 2014 prisoner exchange for five Taliban prisoners.

In interviews with the podcast "Serial" in December 2015, Bergdahl explained that his lack of confidence in leadership at Combat Outpost Mest-Malak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan prompted his decision to embark on an 18-mile hike to a nearby base to report his concerns. Army prosecutors had argued his actions put other service members at risk because they searched for him after he left his base in Afghanistan in 2009.

And president Barack Obama's decision to trade five Taliban detainees for Berghdahl sparked outrage from critics, including other serving and former soldiers, who accused the president of trading "terrorists" for a "traitor".

Bergdahl, 31, told the judge that he "left [his] observation post on [his] own".

He was charged with desertion, which carries a potential five-year sentence, and with misbehavior - essentially, endangering the troops who were sent to search for him - which carries a potential life sentence.

Bergdahl pleaded guilty before a military judge in North Carolina, report the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press and CNN.

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