The United States has obtained a "proof of life" video of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl who disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and is the only U.S. service member held captive by enemy forces, officials said Wednesday.
The video — which was on a thumb drive intercepted by the U.S. last week — shows a frail, shaky Bergdahl making a reference to the recent death of South African leader Nelson Mandela, the officials said.
Although the Taliban has offered to release Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, U.S. military officials told NBC News they believe he is being held hostage by the Haqqani network in neighboring Pakistan.
Bergdahl disappeared when he reportedly walked away from a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009, carrying only a compass and a bottle of water.
Those holding him have released several videos of Bergdahl in captivity, but the last one was more than three years ago. The latest video is proof that he is still alive, U.S. military officials say.
Bergdahl's parents reacted to the development in a statement released by the Idaho National Guard.
"Naturally, this is very important to us and our resolve to continue our efforts to bring Bowe home as soon as possible," it read.
"As we have done so many times over the past 4 and a half years, we request his captors to release him safely so that our only son can be reunited with his mother and father.
"BOWE — If [you] see this, continue to remain strong through patience. Your endurance will carry you to the finish line. Breathe!"
Bergdahl, who is from Idaho, suddenly joined the Army in 2008 and was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division in Fort Richardson, Alaska. Less than a year later, he was deployed as a machine gunner to a combat outpost in Pakita Province, Afghanistan, a militant hotbed.
On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl was reported missing after not showing up for morning roll call. The murky circumstances of his disappearance led some to label him a deserter.
In June, Bergdahl's parents announced they received through the Red Cross a letter that they believe he wrote.