Ahmed Altaie and Bowe Bergdahl—one born 1965 in Baghdad, the other two decades later in Hailey, Idaho—wouldn’t seem to have much in common. But this weekend, as Americans take to beaches and barbeques to celebrate our independence, Messrs. Altaie and Bergdahl share a unique, practically unknown bond: They are the only two U.S. soldiers currently held captive as prisoners of war.
Over the past decade, the U.S. has deployed more than two million troops abroad, with hundreds of thousands in war zones at any one time. Yet in a sign of how much warfare has changed since the time of Thucydides, Grant or even Westmoreland, prisoners of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have been few in number and low in profile. Today there is one in each theater, an unusual symmetry that seems to magnify the solitude and difficulty of their plights.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been a captive of the Taliban for two years, since June 30, 2009. He was a 23-year-old private at the time, about a half-year into his first deployment. The circumstances of his capture remain murky, but one way or another he fell into enemy hands in rural Paktika province, a mountainous region along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.