The Taliban-affiliated captors who have held U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan for nearly five years have signaled a willingness to release him, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
“An ever-shrinking U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has refocused attention on efforts to bring home Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009,” the AP reported. “About two dozen officials at the State and Defense departments, the military's U.S. Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Special Operations Command, the CIA and FBI are working the case—most of them doing it alongside their other duties, a defense official said.”
According to a defense official and a military officer, who both spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said Bergdahl’s captors are anxious to release him. The defense official said the Taliban and Bergdahl’s captors “are reaching out to make a deal.”
Bergdahl, 28, is a Wood River Valley native who graduated from Wood River High School. His family lives west of Hailey. He went missing from his post while serving in the remote Paktika Province of Afghanistan. He was last seen in a “proof of life” video released on the Internet in December.
Col. Tim Marsano of the Idaho National Guard, who serves as the spokesman for the Bergdahl family, said Thursday that the family did not offer any statement about the new developments.
Bergdahl “is thought to be held by members of the Haqqani network, which operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and has been one of the deadliest threats to U.S. troops in the war,” the AP reported. “The Haqqani network, which the State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, claims allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, yet operates with some degree of autonomy.”
After the AP story was published Thursday, the U.S. Central Command office in Florida said some statements attributed to the anonymous defense official by the AP—mainly that top U.S. agencies weren’t adequately communicating and cooperating in the effort to free Bergdahl—are “completely false.”
“Sgt. Bergdahl has been gone far too long and there should be no doubt that we work hard every day using all the military, intelligence and diplomatic tools at our disposal to see Sgt. Bergdahl returned home safely,” the CENTCOM news release said. “It is also important to underscore that the reason Sgt. Bergdahl remains a captive is because he is being held by a terrorist organization, not because of a lack of effort or coordination by the U.S. government.”