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The story of the prisoner of war most people don’t know about is resurfacing this week with an effort by his parents to draw public awareness to their son and stalled negotiations with the Taliban to bring him home.While deployed to Afghanistan, American soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl went missing from Paktika Province in June of 2009.
The military eventually changed his status to Missing-Captured when it became known he was taken as a prisoner of war.
Bergdahl was just a Private First Class when he was taken. As time wore on, he was routinely promoted and is now listed as a Sergeant. But he hasn’t been home to Idaho in three years.
In the Wood River Valley area where he grew up, the local newspaper reports yellow ribbons and stickers saying “Bring Bowe Home” are displayed everywhere.
The U.S. believes Bergdahl, now 26, could have been moved to Pakistan by captors of the Haqqani network, a group with connections to the Taliban, reports the Associated Press.
The Obama administration has been negotiating with the Taliban to arrange a prisoner swap, which the AP reports includes the transfer of five Taliban members imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay:
The Obama administration had worked out a framework deal to send those prisoners to Qatar, where they would be under some form of loose house arrest or supervision, while Bergdahl would be returned to the U.S. military.
But no deal has come through. And with the Taliban ending all peace talks with the U.S. in March, negotiating the release of Bergdahl doesn’t look promising. Furthermore, the AP points out that a prisoner swap would face “serious opposition” on Congress if it ever gets that far. As it is, the White House has proposed lowering its conditions of the deal to include “looser terms for the detention or monitoring of at least one of the Guantanamo prisoners upon their release.”
But with no progress towards freeing Sgt. Bergdahl, his parents are now initiating a public discussion on the negotiations in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of their son, who is an unknown name to most people.
“There is a dynamic here that has to change. Everybody is frustrated with how slowly the process has evolved,” explained Bob Bergdahl to the Idaho Mountain Express, which reported:
Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl said they are advocating that the Pentagon and the White House consider swapping one or more U.S. prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for their son.
“I’m pushing it hard,” Mr. Bergdahl said. “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.”
Mr. Bergdahl said he and his wife want to see a peaceful resolution to the standoff, preferably one that doesn’t put other American soldiers in harm’s way in order to secure Bowe’s freedom.
“We don’t want to see Americans killed,” he said.
Officials speaking anonymously due to concerns for Bergdahl’s safety, say that the Obama administration has been trying to entice the Taliban to re-start direct talks — once a “taboo” practice.
Activists aware of Bergdahl’s story have shown great support in the past for Sgt. Bergdahl’s return home. His parents now hope to renew momentum in a “grassroots movement” to petition for Bowe’s release.
“We want to get the people going, to raise awareness that there is an American POW,” Bob Bergdahl told the Idaho Mountain Express.
“It’s the power of the people. If we could get (comedian) Jimmy Fallon to Tweet about it, that would be something.”
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