WASHINGTON, May 10, 2012 — The Defense Department is doing everything possible to secure the return of an Army sergeant who has been in Taliban hands for nearly three years, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.
During a Pentagon press conference, Panetta responded to questions about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, whose parents have spoken with reporters this week about their son’s captivity.
The secretary said his heart goes out to the Bergdahl family.
“We certainly understand the concerns of the family, and we share the concerns about Bergdahl and the importance of getting him returned,” Panetta said. “And we’re doing everything possible to try to see if we can make that happen.”
Bergdahl, 26, from Hailey, Idaho, has been missing since June 30, 2009, when his unit in Afghanistan noted his absence from roll-call. Bergdahl, who was a private first class when he was captured, is assigned to 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska. The Army has promoted him twice during his captivity. Bergdahl is the only U.S. service member known to be in enemy captivity.
Asked whether Bergdahl’s return hinges on the release of some detainees now held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, the secretary said his position on transfers hasn’t changed.
“I would only take [steps to transfer detainees] in accordance with the law and the requirements of the law, and at this stage, frankly, there are no decisions that have been made with regards to that,” Panetta said.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the same press conference that he has met with members of the sergeant’s family in his office and has corresponded with family members several times.
“I understand their concerns. And I can assure you that we are doing everything in our power using our intelligence resources across the government to try to find [him],” the general said.
“I’ll give you one vignette,” he added. “If you go to the [U.S. Central Command] command center … conference room, there’s [a] four-by-six foot poster of Bowe Bergdahl sitting in front of the podium to remind them, and therefore us, every day that he remains missing in action. I can assure you of that.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)