The Army announced Wednesday it was charging Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior. The announcement comes as one of the five key Taliban released nearly a year ago in exchange for Bergdahl is reportedly engaged in militant activities.  Two other Taliban are under grave suspicion.  The timing is ironic, and the charges are only the first step in a series of legal proceedings still to be played out.

General Mark Milley, head of U.S.Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, had a number of options open to him, ranging from no charges whatsoever to the charge of treason, a capital offense.  The desertion charge, somewhere in the middle, was a reasonable one which is likely going to be easy to prove.

The Army has been roundly criticized for its lengthy investigation into Bergdahl’s conduct and then its subsequent deliberations about whether or not to charge him. But in all fairness, Army leaders knew they were walking through a potential minefield. Even at this stage of the process there are no guarantees that Wednesday’s charges will stand.  The next step is akin to a grand jury proceeding, and a decision could still be made that would let Bergdahl walk free.

General Mark Milley, head of U.S.Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, had a number of options open to him, ranging from no charges whatsoever to the charge of treason, a capital offense.  The desertion charge, somewhere in the middle, was a reasonable one which is likely going to be easy to prove.

It was clear from the outset that any charges against Bergdahl would be potentially embarrassing to the Obama White House. That includes the president, who publicly embraced Bergdahl’s parents in the Rose Garden after telling the world of his release and National Security Adviser Susan Rice who claimed on various Sunday talk shows that Bergdahl served his country with “honor and distinction.”  

Against the backdrop of the White House, the Army had a responsibility to its own -- to the thousands of soldiers who actually did serve with honor and distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of whom walked off their combat outpost into the waiting arms of the enemy. Taking its time to come to this decision was the right thing to do.

In reviewing the 1,200 pages of investigative material related to Bergdahl’s disappearance and captivity, General Mark Milley, head of U.S.Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, had a number of options open to him, ranging from no charges whatsoever to the charge of treason, a capital offense.  The desertion charge, somewhere in the middle, was a reasonable one which is likely going to be easy to prove.  The misbehavior charge is likely to be more difficult in that evidence will certainly involve intelligence gleaned from sources and methods the government will not want to disclose.  

Bergdahl’s case will likely be defended not just his capable and experienced attorney but by any  number of pro-Obama, pro-administration legal strategists and behind-the-scenes advisers who want him to be found not guilty on all counts. Not guilty findings would validate the gushing White House praise of his release and certify to the American public that the so-called Taliban Five were worth the trade.  

All Americans, most notably those men and women who fought and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, will now watch the proceedings play out.  

Bergdahl, a soldier who reportedly expressed his disillusionment with the Army and his country and acted on it by leaving his post and possibly collaborating with the enemy, will now be on  center stage with the whole world watching. Some will watch with detached curiosity, but the men and woman who have served or are still serving our country in uniform, will watch with utter disgust. They will know they are looking at a man who betrayed every core principal that our servicemen and women hold dear -- loyalty to our country and to those with whom you are serving.  

Bill Cowan is a retired Marine, Fox News military analyst, and founding member of the Intelligence Support Activity.  He has been to Iraq 13 times since U.S. forces withdrew in 2012.