For the family of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier held by the Taliban, it has been 4 years, 7 months and seventeen days since they learned their son went missing from his base in eastern Afghanistan. It has been nearly three years since the last video showing their son alive.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that the U.S. military had obtained a new video showing Bergdahl, dated December 14, 2013. The Bergdahl family released a statement Wednesday afternoon confirming the video and asking again for the released of their son. “As we have done so many times over the past 4 and a half years, we request his captors to release him safely so that our only son can be reunited with his mother and father,” the family’s statement said. “BOWE – If you see this, continue to remain strong through patience. Your endurance will carry you to the finish line. Breathe!”
Bergdahl was serving in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan when he went missing from his base on June 30, 2009. The circumstances of his disappearance remain unclear. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban fighters and taken first to the Pakistani border town of Angoor Adda, then to the mountains of North Waziristan’s Shawal Valley, where he is believed to be held by the network of Taliban-aligned militant leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Soon after Bergdahl was captured, the Taliban released a video of the American dressed in local garb and with the beginnings of a wispy beard. “I am scared I won’t be able to go home,” Bergdahl said in the video. “It is very unnerving to be a prisoner.” The Bergdahl family initially remained silent in public, working behind the scenes for their son’s release. Then two years after Bowe’s capture, his father, Bob, made a Youtube video where he appealed to the Pakistani military to help secure Bowe’s safe return.
Most of the world would learn the name Bowe Bergdahl in May 2012, when a local newspaper in the Bergdahl’s hometown, Hailey, Idaho, published a story quoting the family saying “everybody is frustrated with how slowly the process has evolved.” That week, news broke that Bowe had been the subject of a failed deal to swap Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo for Bowe’s release.
Bob Bergdahl spoke with TIME in Hailey, where he described the family’s painful wait for Bowe’s return. Bob learned Pashto and grew a long beard in solidarity with his son. “His faith seems to be intact,” Bob said. “In his videos, he’s mentioned his faith in God, and that means a lot to us. We think the Taliban and these Pashtun people can identify with that. And I hope they can respect him for that. I hope they continue to treat him humanely.”
There are few details of the latest video, and Bergdahl’s fate remains in limbo. When Bob spoke with TIME in 2012, he worried that the politics of the presidential election would prevent any prisoner-swap deal that could secure Bowe’s release. “This is a war, and war doesn’t wait on politics,” he said. There was little discussion of the war in Afghanistan during the 2012 campaign, and virtually no mention of the one soldier still being held prisoner by the Taliban. As the U.S. completes its drawdown of nearly all troops by the end of this year, the Bergdahls must hope the U.S. government can cut a deal with the Haqqani Network and the Taliban that will ensure he is not left behind.