In the years since their capture in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie have been largely forgotten by both Washington and the American public. There have been no protests demanding the government make whatever concessions necessary to win their release. Most Americans don’t even know their names. The situation in Israel, one of America’s closest allies, could not be more different. The Jewish state held a national celebration on Tuesday following the safe return of Gilad Shalit, a young soldier freed in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Shalit had become a household name in Israel, where pop stars composed songs honoring Shalit and hundreds of thousands of Israelis regularly demonstrated to pressure the government to strike a deal with his captors.
Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan 2009, and Altaie, missing in Iraq in 2006, are both thought to still be alive and in enemy captivity. The Haqqani Network, the militant group holding Bergdahl, regularly releases propaganda videos featuring the 25-year-old soldier, who looks increasingly haggard and frightened.
Yet the missing soldiers are largely invisible here at home. The White House and Pentagon rarely mention the two men and have made clear that they won’t consider paying ransoms or freeing prisoners in exchange for the men’s release, as Israel has done.