Captive Soldier Priority for US – Panetta

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Thursday that U.S. officials were doing everything possible to win the release of a U.S. soldier held captive by Afghan insurgents, a day after his parents went public with complaints about government inaction.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 and is believed to be held by the militant Haqqani network somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan. On Wednesday, Bergdahl’s parents, who had largely avoided comment until now, gave interviews in which they described their frustration over the administration’s inability to gain his freedom.

“We share the concerns about Bergdahl and the importance of getting him returned,” Panetta told a news conference. “And we’re doing everything possible to try to see if we can make that happen.”

Asked about reports that U.S. negotiators have considered swapping five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, Panetta said he would agree to such an exchange only if it met U.S. law, which requires that he ensure that any detainees released from Guantanamo won’t return to the battlefield.

“Frankly, there are no decisions that have been made with regards to that,” Panetta said.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a poster of the captive sergeant hangs in U.S. Central Command’s operations center as a reminder that he is missing.

“I can assure you that we are doing everything in our power, using our intelligence resources across the government, to try to find, locate him,” Dempsey said.

He said he has written to Bergdahl’s parents and met with them in his office. They complained that they had not heard from President Obama about their son.

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