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U.S. seeks release of soldier caught in '09 in Afghanistan, Panetta says

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Thursday that U.S. officials were doing everything possible to win the release of an American soldier held captive by Afghan insurgents, a day after his parents publicly complained about government inaction.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in eastern Afghanistan in 2009 and is believed to be held by the militant Haqqani network somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Wednesday, Bergdahl's parents, who had largely avoided comment until now, gave interviews describing their frustration over the administration's inability to gain his freedom.

"We share the concerns about Bergdahl and the importance of getting him returned," Panetta told a news conference. "And we're doing everything possible to try to see if we can make that happen."

Asked about reports that U.S. negotiators have considered swapping five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, Panetta said he would agree to such an exchange only if it met U.S. law, which requires that he ensure that any detainees released from Guantanamo won't return to the battlefield.

"Frankly, there are no decisions that have been made with regards to that," Panetta said.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a poster of the captive sergeant hangs in U.S. Central Command's operations center -- a reminder that he is missing.

"I can assure you that we are doing everything in our power, using our intelligence resources across the government, to try to find, locate him," he said.

Bob Bergdahl and his wife, Jani Bergdahl, said they are concerned the U.S. government hasn't done enough to secure the release.

"There is a dynamic here that has to change," Bob Bergdahl told the Idaho Mountain Express. "Everybody is frustrated with how slowly the process has evolved."

Bob Bergdahl also told the newspaper that swapping Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo for his son represents a "win-win" for the United States. He said that in addition to his son's safe return, the United States could foster good will with the Afghan people.

The Bergdahls also complained that they had not heard from President Obama about their son.

Bob Bergdahl said he and his wife are hoping for a peaceful resolution, preferably one that doesn't put other American soldiers in danger. "We don't want to see Americans killed," he said.

Even so, he said the time for a strategy change has come, and he hopes renewed public attention to their son's plight will help secure his release. "I'm pushing it hard," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.