Captive of the Taliban: In the Hometown of an American Prisoner of War

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Christopher Morris / VII for TIME

Bob and Jani Bergdahl, parents of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in Hailey, Idaho. The family says Bowe was part of secret, but stalled, negotiations for a prisoner exchange between the Obama Administration and the Taliban

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Bob explains that the situation "is extremely complex. It involves different parties — state actors and nonstate actors. This is going to be difficult to reconcile, which is why we believe diplomacy for the hostages — and Bowe's not the only one, there are other hostages ... are the window of opportunity here." However, he says, "if we wait too long, if we politicize this too long in Washington, the opportunity for diplomacy — that window — will close and Afghanistan will be engulfed in civil war again." A slight hint of frustration does emerge. "The endgame and the end state is negotiations. And yet negotiations seem to be politically incorrect and not allowed." The window of opportunity, he reiterates, "is not going to await a national election to come to an end. I don't think we can count on the dynamics on the ground in Afghanistan to be the same as they necessarily are now. This is war, and war doesn't wait on politics."

He talks about what it meant for his son to enlist in the Army. "He saw Afghanistan as a humanitarian mission," Bob says. "I'm very proud of him, and I'm very proud of every single soldier, sailor, airman, Marine. We are so proud of these people, and we want Afghanistan to count for something." At the same time, he says he knows what Afghans and Pakistanis are going through. "We're extremely compassionate to the people of Afghanistan, and people need to know that the people of Pakistan have suffered tremendously because of the war in Afghanistan."

He thinks his son, who is a sergeant, is holding up well. "His faith seems to be intact," Bob says. "In his videos, he's mentioned his faith in God, and that means a lot to us. He's holding strong, and he has a strong foundation there. We think the Taliban and these Pashtu people can identify with that. And I hope they can respect him for that." Another thing, Bob says, may give Bowe strength. "Idaho is so much like Afghanistan," he says, which is why the state has been able to provide the military with so many young people who do well in mountainous and desert environments. "I think that's helping him survive and resist. The similarities will help him. We hope that will be what sustains him."

Indeed, the mountains of eastern Afghanistan bear a striking resemblance to those of southern Idaho. And Bowe was at home in the mountains of his home state. As a teenager, he zoomed across the heights on a motorcycle outfitted with a strong suspension to deflect the uneven, rocky trails. That is perhaps why Sue Martin has shared so much of what she owns with the Bergdahls. She lost her son Zane, a Hailey fireman, to a motorcycle accident. Amid all the "Standing with Bowe" and "Get Bowe Back" signs in her shop is a framed photograph of the restaurant's namesake, Zane Martin, careening down a racetrack. Nearby is a photo of Bowe as a teenager on a motorcycle trip.

"He worked for me not long before he went into the Army," Martin says. "He was everybody's favorite person. He had a quiet chivalry. He'd shovel a path in the snow, clear the snow off my car. He'd just go the extra mile." As others in Hailey have said, Bowe Bergdahl is like everyone's son.

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