- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2014

It will be five years next month that ArmySgt. Bowe Bergdahl fell into the hands of the most ruthless terrorists fighting U.S. and local troops in Afghanistan.

If the Pentagon and State Department are any closer to freeing him, or know more about his location, they are not saying.

This is known: Sgt. Bergdahl is America’s last prisoner of war. He is in the hands of the Haqqani network, terrorism’s mafia family tied to the Taliban and al Qaeda. It is responsible for some of the most horrible attacks on civilians in Kabul.

Sgt. Bergdahl is thought to be in relatively good, but not robust, health, based on sporadic videos and on contacts the U.S. has established with informants and with liaisons to the Taliban. The U.S. believes it knows his general, but not precise, location in Pakistan, where Haqqani fighters enjoy immunity compliments of Islamabad’s intelligence service.

“There’s good information on the type of care he’s receiving and also his treatment,” said a U.S. official familiar with the effort to free him. “That’s pretty well understood. There is reason to believe he is in good health. That has been confirmed several times.”

This fact, the official said, shows the Taliban-Haqqani axis’s ultimate goal is use Sgt. Bergdahl to win release of their fighters.

“They do want to deal for Bergdahl,” the official said.

Unclear are the exact behind-the-scenes efforts to free him. Media reports say the State Department has discussed a prisoner swap for Taliban held at Guantanamo Bay.

But the official said an exchange is now “off the table” and other unspecified avenues are being explored.

The official said Joint Special Operations Command, home to SEAL Team Six and Delta Force, has plans for a rescue, but not the crown jewel intelligence: his precise location.

While State at some point pursued a prisoner exchange, such a move is distasteful to U.S. commanders. They sat in horror earlier this year as anti-U.S. Afghan President Hamid Karzai released 65 Taliban prisoners. Among them: makers of deadly improvised explosive devices.

Also unclear is how Sgt. Bergdahl, a home-schooled resident of Hailey, Idaho, was captured.

His unit, the 4th Combat Brigade Team, 25th Infantry Division, was doing its war tour in restive Paktika Province, on the Pakistan border, when he disappeared on June 30, 2009 from his forward operating base.

Within a month, he showed up on the first Haqqani-produced video, sitting on the floor, a white background, dressed in local garb.

“I was lagging behind a patrol and was captured,” he said.

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