- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A key Republican on the House Armed Service Committee is pressing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to appoint a point man to coordinate Pentagon and State Department efforts to secure the release of a U.S. soldier believed to be held in Pakistan.

In a letter to Mr. Hagel Tuesday, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, questioned the Defense Department’s efforts to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Members of the Haqqani network, an Islamist insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban, captured Sgt. Bergdahl in 2009 and have been keeping him in Pakistan.

Pointing to the Pentagon’s “lack of cohesiveness and interagency coordination” in attempting to free Sgt. Bergdahl, Mr. Hunter urged Mr. Hagel to choose someone, “preferably in a civilian capacity, to effectively and seamlessly coordinate operational activities between government entities and facilitate communications at the highest level.”

“It is absolutely critical that efforts to free Bergdahl are not overcome by bureaucracy,” Mr. Hunter wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

“Given the significance and necessity for centralized command and control, which I have been informed is little to nonexistent, I urge you to seriously consider the idea of directing an individual to organize, manage and coordinate  activity that involves multiple elements of the federal government working towards Bergdahl’s release,” Mr. Hunger, a former Marine officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, wrote.

A source familiar with the U.S. government’s effort to secure Sgt. Bergdahl’s release said attempts made by Pentagon and State Department officials have been overlapping, hindering the process of freeing the soldier from captivity. 

U.S. Central Command has taken the lead in rescuing the soldier, but the CIA, FBI and other agencies have also become involved.

“Organizationally it’s a complete mess,” the source said.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that the Obama administration is considering trading five Taliban members currently imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl. The potential trade has been on the table for more than two years, but no formal offer has been made to the Taliban.