Obama reassures family about efforts to free son
BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- President Barack Obama called the parents of an American prisoner of war to assure them that he and the U.S. Department of Defense were doing everything in their power to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl three years after his capture in Afghanistan.
The soldier's father, Bob Bergdahl, told The Associated Press on Thursday through a spokesman that the family is now confident that everything that can be done to return their son to U.S. control is being done.
"The president reassured us of that," Bob Bergdahl said, in a message relayed through Idaho National Guard Col. Tim Marsano.
An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly, confirmed separately that Obama called the Bergdahls on Memorial Day weekend.
The president contacted Bob Bergdahl and his wife, Jani Bergdahl, weeks after they expressed frustration that the U.S. government wasn't doing enough to secure their son's freedom. In early May, the Bergdahls complained the president hadn't contacted them personally following their son's capture.
But on May 27 -- the weekend he was contacted by Obama -- Bob Bergdahl told an annual holiday-weekend motorcycle rally held in Washington, D.C., on behalf of POW/MIA awareness that he was pleased with the U.S. government's efforts to bring his son home.
Bowe Bergdahl is the only U.S. prisoner of war from the Afghan conflict. He disappeared from his base in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and is believed held in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban.
In Idaho, Marsano underscored the military's commitment to Bergdahl's freedom, without commenting on specifics of the effort.
"The Department of Defense and other government agencies have not forgotten about this captive soldier and we never will," he said.
Bergdahl, who turned 26 in captivity on March 28, was the subject of a proposed prisoner swap in which the Obama administration was considering the transfer of five Taliban prisoners long held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar.
That plan collapsed, but a new proposal would transfer some Taliban fighters or affiliates out of full U.S. control. The prisoners would go to a detention facility adjacent to Bagram air field, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, officials of both governments have said.
The prison is inside the security perimeter established by the U.S. military, and is effectively under U.S. control for now. But it is scheduled for transfer to full Afghan control in September.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)