Washington: The captors of an American soldier held for nearly five years in Afghanistan have signalled a willingness to release him but are unclear which US government officials have the authority to make a deal, according to two individuals in the military working for his release.
Critics of the release effort blame disorganisation and poor communication among the numerous federal agencies involved.
An ever-shrinking US military presence in Afghanistan has refocused attention on efforts to bring home Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009.
About two dozen officials at the State and Defence departments, the military`s US Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Special Operations Command, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are working on the case, a defense official said.
"Elements in all echelons — from the top of the Taliban down to the folks holding Bergdahl — are reaching out to make a deal," the official added.
Bergdahl, 28, Idaho, was last seen in a "proof of life" video released in December. He is thought to be held by members of the Haqqani network, which operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and has been one of the deadliest threats to US troops in the war.
The Haqqani network, which the State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organisation in 2012, claims allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, yet operates with some degree of autonomy.
The State Department is leading the most publicised approach to getting Bergdahl back "a plan to exchange him for five Taliban detainees at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba".
"The reason Sgt. Bergdahl remains a captive is because he is being held by a terrorist organisation, not because of a lack of effort or coordination by the US government," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
In a statement issued today, US Central Command said the allegations were "completely false and mischaracterize the ongoing close coordination and teamwork between US Central Command, the Department of Defense and other US government agencies" in seeking Bergdahl`s return.