U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy on Monday.
Bergdahl, 31, was accused of endangering the fellow soldiers who looked for him after he walked off his combat post at an Afghanistan base in 2009 and was captured by Taliban.
“I left my observation post on my own,” Bergdahl told a judge on Monday. “I understand leaving was against the law.”
After Bergdahl pleaded guilty to the charges, a military prosecutor said he has made no agreement to limit punishment for the sergeant.
The maximum possible punishment for Bergdhal would be life in prison, but the former 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment trooper has not been sentenced yet.
Authorities said the official search for Bergdahl lasted 45 days, but the military spent years trying to locate and rescue him.
CNN said six soldiers’ deaths have been tied, either directly or indirectly, to the search for Bergdhal during his disappearance in Afghanistan.
The defense attorneys have acknowledged that Bergdhal left the base without authorization but argued the soldier can’t be held responsible for decisions made by others over how to carry out the searches.
Bergdahl was held for five years in captivity while being tortured, abused and neglected by Taliban forces.
He alleged having made at least a dozen attempts to escape but all failed until being released in a prisoner swap for five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Officials of the Obama administration said he had “served with honor and distinction,” but Republicans has lashed out at the 2014 prisoner swap deal, including sharp criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump who during his last year’s presidential campaign called Bergdahl “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.”
Bergdahl’s lawyers doubted that the soldier could get a fair trial after Trump made such remarks, but military judges refused to dismiss the charges.
He has been assigned to desk duty at a U.S. army base in Texas after being charged in 2015.
During a preliminary investigation, Bergdahl said he left his post to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw “leadership failure” in his unit.