WASHINGTON - The captors of an American soldier held for nearly five years in Afghanistan have signaled a willingness to release him, but are unclear which U.S. government officials have the authority to make a deal.

That's according to both a U.S. defense official and a military officer working for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Critics of the release effort blame the confusion on disorganization and poor communication among the numerous U.S. agencies involved in the effort to free Bergdahl. A defense official says about two dozen officials at the State and Defense departments, the military, the CIA and FBI are working on the case.

The White House and Defense Department are defending their work to release Bergdahl.

The military officer and defense official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.