WASHINGTON – The parents of Bowe Bergdahl, the first American soldier captured in Afghanistan since the US-led war began in 2001, are urging the US government to swap him for Afghan prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, US media reported.
“Everybody is frustrated with how slowly the process has evolved,” Bob Bergdahl, the soldier’s father, told the Idaho Mountain Express.
“I’m pushing it hard. We started out by trying to encourage the Taliban to take care of our son. … Now, we’re worried that the government isn’t concerned enough to put him on the (negotiating) table,” the father stressed.
Within hours of that report, President Barack Obama’s administration had rare public words on the case, saying it was hard at work on locating and freeing the US soldier, using whatever that might take.
“I wouldn’t rule anything in or out,” said Colonel Dave Lapan, director of the Defense Department press office.
Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He said in a video that he was captured when he fell behind his unit in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has released several videos showing him to be alive.
Efforts to secure his release have been sustained, the US reports said.
“Late last year, State Department negotiators put together a tentative deal in which five Taliban prisoners would be transferred from Cuba to house arrest in Qatar, where their families could join them. Bergdahl was to be released after the first two insurgents arrived,” The Washington Post reported.
“But the deal fell apart, and US-Taliban peace talks have been stalled since January,” it said.
“The Washington Post had withheld information on the Bergdahl aspect of the negotiations since last year at the request of White House officials, who said publicizing them could endanger his life,” the Post added, saying the prisoner was believed to be alive and fairly fit.
Meanwhile The New York Times spoke with the parents in Idaho this week.
The soldier’s father told the Times “he was frustrated by the lack of progress on the talks, which he believes are stalled because the Obama administration is reacting to pressure from Congress in an election year not to negotiate with terrorists.”
“We don’t have faith in the US government being able to reconcile this,” the father told The Times.