Friday, May 2, 2014

Sen. Risch gets clarity on Bergdahl

State Department official cites efforts to secure soldier’s release

Express Staff Writer

    Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, asked a high-ranking State Department official for clarity on Tuesday about efforts to free Blaine County soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by Taliban-affiliated forces in Afghanistan for nearly five years..
    The inquiry was made in the wake of a recent Associated Press report that federal bureaucracy has held up negotiations with the Taliban that would lead to Bergdahl’s release.
    After the AP story was published on April 24, the U.S. Central Command office in Florida said some statements attributed to an anonymous defense official by the AP—mainly that top U.S. agencies weren’t adequately communicating and cooperating in the effort to free Bergdahl—are “completely false.”    

We are striving in the most energetic and creative ways
we can devise.”
Jarrett Blanc
U.S. State Department

    In a news release this week, Risch said he offered Jarrett Blanc, State Department deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, an opportunity to “put a fence around” the dispute and explain how hard the U.S. is working to secure Bergdahl’s release. Blanc was questioned during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee hearing titled “A Transformation: Afghanistan Beyond 2014.”
    “We and our colleagues across the government, at the Department of Defense and the intelligence community and elsewhere, are striving in the most energetic and creative ways we can devise to try to secure his release,” Blanc said.
    Risch said he is thankful for Blanc’s efforts.
    “We are all going to work together to see if we can’t make this happen as soon as possible,” Risch said.
    Bergdahl, 28, is a Wood River Valley native who graduated from Wood River High School. His family lives west of Hailey. He went missing from his post while serving in the remote Paktika Province of Afghanistan in late June 2009. He was last seen in a “proof of life” video released on the Internet in December.

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