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US still hopes to win release of captured soldier: Hagel

A screenshot depicting US soldier Bowe Bergdahl in a video released by a Taliban production studio on December 25, 2009
On December 25, 2009, the Taliban's al-Emara Jihadi Studio, part of the Commission of Cultural Affairs Audio and Video Department of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, released a 36'27" hostage video of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

The United States has not given up trying to win the release of an American soldier captured by the Taliban more than four years ago, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.

At a ceremony honoring US prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, the Pentagon chief reaffirmed the military's vow "to never leave a fellow service member behind."

"That commitment extends to Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan more than four years ago," Hagel said in a speech.

"Using our military, intelligence, and diplomatic tools, the United States is continuing its efforts to secure Sergeant Bergdahl's safe release," Hagel said.

Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 from a base in Paktika province and the Taliban later said they had captured him.

The sergeant remains the only US soldier known to be held by the Islamist militants, who have released several videos of him indicating he was alive.

US soldier Bowe Bergdahl in a video released by a Taliban associated media group on December 7, 2010
A screenshot from a December 7, 2010 released by a Taliban associated video production group shows someone that appears to be US soldier Bowe Bergdahl (L), who has been held hostage by the Taliban since his disappearance from his unit on June 30, 2009.

At one point, US officials discussed a possible deal in which Bergdahl would have been freed in exchange for the release of five Taliban detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison. But the negotiations collapsed last year.

Hagel said the Department of Defense (DoD) would continue to work to recover remains of more than 80,000 fallen troops who are listed as missing in action from previous conflicts.

"Every day, hundreds of DoD personnel, including forensic anthropologists, underwater archeologists, and many other experts, continue to scour the globe and work in laboratories to identify the missing," he said.

In the past year, the Pentagon has managed to identify 61 troops who had been missing from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, he said.

And on Thursday, World War II pilots were buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors after their remains were recovered in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, he said.

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