Bowe Bergdahl marks another birthday in captivity

March 28, 2014 

Afghanistan Taliban Talks

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is shown in 2010 in an undated video released by the Taliban. Mullah Sangeen Zadran, who died in September 2013 during a drone attack and who was involved in Bergdahl's capture, is pictured at right.


U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Hailey turned 28 Friday.

It's the fifth time he's marked a birthday since he was captured in June 2009 in Afghanistan. He is believed to be held in Pakistan by the Haqqani Network, an insurgent group with ties to the Taliban.

The United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, noted Bergdahl's birthday in a written release that said his return remains CENTCOM's priority.

"He has been gone far too long, and there should be no doubt that we work every day - using our military, intelligence and diplomatic tools - to see Sgt. Bergdahl returned home safely," the statement said. "Our hearts go out to the Bergdahl family, and we ask that he be remembered in your thoughts."

Last month, the Obama administration said it was attempting to resume talks with the Taliban to arrange for Bergdahl's release. The White House wants to see him returned before the bulk of U.S. forces leave Afghanistan this year.

Senior officials from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies agreed to release five Taliban operatives held for years at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl. Taliban representatives had objected to the previous plan to free the prisoners by ones or twos as a test of Taliban and Qatari intermediaries’ ability to make sure the men did not return to militancy.

Two people familiar with the decision stressed that it was the Taliban that broke off negotiations nearly two years ago and that the U.S. door to talks has been open since.

Bergdahl, an army infantryman assigned to a unit from Alaska, was taken captive after walking off his base in the eastern province of Paktika, a decision that confounded his comrades and commanders in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon also has examined the feasibility of trying to negotiate Bergdahl’s release directly with the Haqqani network, which is part of the broader Taliban insurgency but operates separately. The network is widely believed to be holding the soldier in Pakistan, two others familiar with that exploratory effort said.

Preliminary studies have looked at whether the Haqqanis would engage in talks to trade Bergdahl for Haqqani prisoners captured by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and held at a prison adjacent to Bagram air base, one current and one former U.S. official said.

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