Wait­ing goes on for U.S. POW cap­tured in Afghanistan

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY KRISTINA WONG

An empty chair on dis­play at a Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Mon­day sym­bol­ized the costs mil­i­tary fam­i­lies face when loved ones have been killed or de­clared miss­ing in ac­tion.

The chair rep­re­sented Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 26, the sole U.S. pris­oner of the war in Afghanistan.

A na­tive of Sun Val­ley, Idaho, Sgt. Bergdahl was cap­tured by the Tal­iban in 2009 while serv­ing as an in­fantry­man. In ex­change for his free­dom, the Tal­iban have de­manded $1 mil­lion and the re­lease of Tal­iban mil­i­tants at the U.S. mil­i­tary de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ear­lier this year, U.S. of­fi­cials and Tal­iban rep­re­sen­ta­tives were re­ported widely to have been in dis­cus­sions to swap pris­on­ers, but the ef­fort was shelved. Sgt. Bergdahl also at­tempted to es­cape but was re­cap­tured.

A source close to his par­ents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, said they are thank­ful to know he is alive and are wait­ing to hear from the White House about what of­fi­cials ex­pect to do to free him.

The source, who re­quested anonymity be­cause of the po­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, said the fam­ily has been in a “gi­ant wait­ing game, like so many ac­tive-duty fam­ily mem­bers.”

It was “un­bear­able” for them that the Afghan War was not a big­ger part of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the source said.

“It’s hard to bear. This is the price that is paid by a na­tion that goes to war,” the source said.

“[They won­der] what is our pol­icy? What is our strat­egy? What’s the timetable? [They] feel kind of aban­doned by the pub­lic and by a lot of what goes on in Wash­ing­ton.”

Ar­tie Muller, founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Rolling Thun­der, which pro­motes full ac­count­abil­ity for pris­on­ers of war and troops miss­ing in ac­tion, ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of do­ing too lit­tle to re­cover Sgt. Bergdahl and three miss­ing con­trac­tors from the Afghanistan War.

“They re­leased some of the pris­on­ers that we have in Guan­tanamo Bay and gave them back. Well, why did we give them back if you’re not giv­ing our guy back?” he ar­gued.

Over the past decade, the De­fense Depart­ment has be­gun to in­crease the suc­cess of re­cov­er­ing re­mains of fallen ser­vice mem­bers thanks to im­prov­ing DNA iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy, but Mr. Muller said the Pen­tagon must do more to find the ones who still might be alive.

“Some of them were still left be­hind. Well, did they die? Are they still be­ing held?” Mr. Muller asked.

More than 83,000 Amer­i­cans have been de­clared miss­ing from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Viet­nam War.

De­fense Depart­ment spokesman Lt. Col. James Gre­gory said, “Our hearts go out to the Bergdahl fam­ily and friends.

“We will not dis­cuss the de­tail of our ef­forts, but there should be no doubt that we work ev­ery day — us­ing all our mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence and diplo­matic tools — to try to get Sgt. Bergdahl re­turned home safely.”


An un­dated photo shows Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 26, of Ketchum, Idaho, at least three years ago. The Pen­tagon con­firmed in July 2009 that Sgt. Bergdahl, then a pri­vate, had been cap­tured while serv­ing in Afghanistan.

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