U.S., Taliban in talks over Gitmo prisoner swap
ISLAMABAD — Washington has held indirect talks with the Taliban over the possible transfers of five senior Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a U.S. soldier captured nearly five years ago, a senior Taliban official told The Associated Press.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 27, of Hailey, Idaho, was last seen in a video released in December, footage seen as “proof of life” demanded by the United States. Bergdahl is believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the only U.S. soldier to be captured in America's longest war, which began with the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for sheltering al-Qaida in 2001, perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The talks, which the Taliban official said took place sometime over the past two months in a Middle East country, would be the first significant movement toward an exchange since it was last discussed by the United States and the Taliban in June 2013.
That earlier initiative, along with the overall peace efforts, lost steam after Afghan President Hamid Karzai argued over the name of a Taliban political office that opened in the gulf nation of Qatar. The office was eventually closed, but several Taliban have remained behind in Qatar.
A U.S. official said the Americans are considering a prisoner exchange but would not comment on whether any new talks have taken place. The official, who has been closely involved with this issue and has knowledge of previous talks with the Taliban, declined to give more details.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf would not confirm the efforts.
“We are not currently involved in active negotiations with the Taliban,” Harf said on Wednesday. “Clearly if negotiations do resume at some point with the Taliban, then we would want to talk with them about the safe return of Sgt. Bergdahl.”
In Kabul, a senior Afghan official said the United States has recently been in touch with Karzai's government over a possible exchange involving Berdahl, who was captured on June 30, 2009.
Time might be ripe for a swap.
Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow the United States to leave a residual force in Afghanistan after the NATO-led combat mission formally ends at the end of this year. He says he must first see movement on reconciliation with the Taliban. He maintains that Washington has connections with the Taliban that can help with this process.
There are potential roadblocks.
The five Taliban detainees are not among those Guantanamo Bay prisoners who have been approved for transfer once their home countries provide security guarantees. The Obama administration, which wants to close the facility, has argued that many approved transfers effectively have been blocked by rigid restrictions imposed by Congress. Recently, Congress eased the restrictions, including the toughest one, requiring the secretary of Defense to “personally certify that there would be no recidivism for any detainee he certified,” according to Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.
The transfer process, once it has begun, would take about two months, a senior U.S. official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity. Both U.S. officials and the Afghan official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 900 may have been killed in migrant boat disaster in Mediterranean
- Bomb in van kills UNICEF employees in Somalia
- Ethiopians shocked by Islamic State killings
- Nazi guard’s trial ‘a gift’ for survivors
- EU foreign ministers to meet after latest migrant tragedy
- Fighting, gasoline shortage intensify Yemen crisis
- Russia’s missiles-to-Iran deal opens timely market
- Yemen Shiite rebel leader vows not to surrender amid strikes
- Suicide bomb blast in Afghanistan tied to Islamic State
- Boat filled with migrants capsizes off Libya; hundreds reported locked in vessel
- DNA matches child born in Vietnam, father in Texas after 40 years