In part, this is because there were far more POWs in Vietnam than in Iraq or Afghanistan, where US troops have largely been confined to heavily-fortified bases.
In 1973, in keeping with the peace accords, Hanoi returned 591 American POWs to the United States. Today, there remain 1,660 US troops who are unaccounted for, according to Department of Defense (DOD) statistics.
Each year, the DOD’s Prisoner of War/Missing Person’s office hosts “family updates” to discuss ongoing efforts to find the US military’s missing with relatives.
Attendance at these events has been growing steadily from 645 in 2001 to 1,161 in 2011.
The meetings offer updates on the 73,681 US troops who are still considered “unaccounted for” from World War II, as well as the nearly 8,000 from the Korean War.
The Pentagon, which says there are six US troops still missing from the First Gulf War to the present, has not commented on reports that Bergdahl may have wandered off his fortified base in Paktika Province, near the border with Pakistan, before being captured.
What is clear is that Sergeant Bergdahl was soon in the hands of Taliban forces that “quickly moved him closer to the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan in hopes of getting him across,” Bissonnette writes.
US intelligence analysts had tracked leads after his disappearance, and the SEALs had launched “several rescue attempts, but came up empty,” he reports. “It was a race to get him back before they smuggled him to Pakistan.”
The fear among US officials, he adds, was that the insurgents who captured him would eventually sell him to a more formidable terrorist group – namely, the Haqqani Network, allied with the Taliban but known for having greater organization and more brutal tactics against US forces.