KABUL, Afghanistan — Spc. Bowe Bergdahl, the only known U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan, appears briefly in a newly released Taliban video standing next to a smiling insurgent commander who once threatened to kill him.
The 24-year-old from Hailey, Idaho, has bags under his eyes and what appears to be an abrasion on his left cheek in the footage. The video was the fourth to appear since he was captured nearly 18 months ago and was provided to reporters Wednesday by IntelCenter, a private, U.S.-based organization that tracks Islamic extremist activities and communications.
His parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, have declined to speak with reporters throughout the ordeal, but Idaho National Guard spokesman Col. Tim Marsano said Wednesday that they had confirmed that the man in the video was their son.
"They responded that it was him, based on the screen shots," Marsano said. "It's been an extremely difficult year and a half. Without any concrete news, everyday brings more challenges. They do continue to take some comfort in the support they've gotten, from the community, their family and friends."
NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz said the coalition was not sure whether the footage was old or new. Bergdahl is seen wearing an Afghan-style, lightweight tan shirt, suggesting that the video was shot during warmer weather.
"We are still investigating this case and hope Bowe Bergdahl is still fine," he said.
Bergdahl has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009, when he disappeared in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan.
According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which also tracks Islamic extremist activities, Bergdahl is standing next to Sangin Zadran, a senior official in the al-Qaida linked Haqqani network in Paktika. In July 2009, Sangin's spokesman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Berghdal would be killed unless the U.S. stops strikes in Ghazni province's Giro district and Paktika province's Khoshamand district.
Bergdahl, who is seen in just a few seconds of footage that includes a montage of past militant attacks and news events, nods occasionally as if acknowledging another speaker and often looks down at the ground.
The 69-minute video, produced by Manba al-Jihad, a video production group of the Haqqani network, was released on the website of the Afghan Taliban on Dec. 2, but appeared on jihadist forums last month, according to SITE.
Bergdahl, a member of 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska, has appeared in three other videos that the Taliban released on July 18, 2009, Dec. 25, 2009 and April 7.
Separately, two NATO service members died Wednesday following an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan. The coalition did not disclose their nationalities or details about their deaths. So far this month, 12 members of the NATO coalition have been killed in Afghanistan. At least 671 have died so far this year.
The Afghan Defense Ministry also condemned a coalition airstrike that it said mistakenly killed two Afghan soldiers on Tuesday afternoon. The ministry said in a statement that three other Afghan soldiers were wounded in the airstrike in Charkh district of Logar province in eastern Afghanistan. NATO said it was investigating the incident.
On Tuesday, Afghan soldiers killed a suicide attacker who was plotting an attack on an Afghan army base in the Gereshk district of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, the Afghan Defense Ministry said. The ministry did not disclose details, but NATO described the incident in a statement released Wednesday night.
The coalition said that after receiving tips from local residents, a joint Afghan and coalition force stopped two suspicious vehicles traveling on a weapons infiltration route in Helmand's Washer district.
One suspected insurgent ran from the first vehicle and was detained by the security force. The second suspected insurgent blew himself up inside the vehicle.
In the second vehicle, a suspected militant jumped out and began shooting and was wounded while another managed to escape.
Also in the south, one child was killed and two men were injured in a homemade bomb explosion in the Shahjoy district of Zabul province, said Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar, spokesman for the provincial governor.
Associated Press writer John Miller in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.