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April 19, 2014

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Captured US soldier’s family cautiously optimistic

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 | 11:56 a.m.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The family of the lone known U.S. prisoner of war says it's "cautiously optimistic" about reported renewed efforts by President Barack Obama's administration to win his freedom.

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, from Hailey in central Idaho, was captured more than four years ago in Afghanistan and is believed to be held in Pakistan.

The Washington Post reported Monday that the administration is seeking to resume talks with the Taliban, in hopes of exchanging Bergdahl for members of the group imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, (http://tinyurl.com/ld3y59o ). The Post cited current and former officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as they outlined parts of a strategy they described as a last-ditch effort.

White House press secretary Jay Carney would not confirm the efforts when asked by reporters Tuesday. He said the U.S. is not actively negotiating with the Taliban.

"Clearly, if negotiations do resume at some point, then we will want to talk with the Taliban about the safe return of Sgt. Bergdahl," Carney said. "He has been gone far too long and we continue to call for and work towards his safe and immediate release."

In a statement, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, the captive soldier's parents, said they welcomed the development and applaud the "unity of purpose and resolve" being shown by the White House and other U.S. agencies in freeing their son.

"Today's news indicates there are renewed efforts to use diplomacy to recover our family's son, grandson and brother, Bowe Bergdahl," the couple wrote Tuesday in a statement issued through the Idaho National Guard. "We thank all involved for this renewed effort and we hope everyone takes this opportunity seriously. We are cautiously optimistic these discussions will lead to the safe return of our son after more than four and a half years in captivity."

The Bergdahls declined interview requests.

With most U.S. troops due to leave Afghanistan this year, the attempt to negotiate for Bergdahl's release has become more pressing. The bid to exchange the release of five Taliban members for Bergdahl showed a glimmer of hope as recently as last June before collapsing, the current and former officials told the Post.

A new proposal, which has not been formally made, would allow the simultaneous release of all five Taliban prisoners to protective custody in Qatar. The Taliban had objected to the previous plan to release the prisoners one or two at a time as a test of whether they returned to militancy, the Post reported.

Bergdahl's specific whereabouts are unknown, but a video surfaced in January that officials believe was taken in December showing the 27-year-old soldier, who appeared to be in poor health.