Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taliban talks could involve Bergdahl

Prisoner swap deemed a possibility


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Expected negotiations between U.S. officials and Taliban leaders could lead to a prisoner exchange and the possible release of captured U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Numerous news media reported Tuesday that top leaders of Taliban forces in Afghanistan are relocating to a "political office" in Qatar, a wealthy Persian Gulf emirate, to open up negotiations with the United States.

The Washington Post reported the opening of a Qatar office as "the first time the militant group has confirmed it has an interest in negotiating with Washington."

The article states that talks in Qatar could allow for an easier draw-down of U.S. troops in the region, planned for the next two years.

"But in the short term, experts said, talks likely will revolve around a possible agreement to swap Guantanamo detainees for Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2009," the article stated.

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The Post also reported that the U.S. reached a tentative agreement with the Taliban in November, under which five Afghans detained at Guantanamo would have been transferred to Qatar in exchange for the militant group's public renunciation of international terrorism.

"The deal collapsed after [Afghan president] Karzai rejected the terms, according to U.S. officials," the Post reported.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, was abducted in June 2009 by Taliban militants while he was on patrol in Paktika Province, an area that has seen more political organization in recent months. According to a statement on the U.S. Embassy website in Kabul, on Nov. 28, Ambassador Ryan Crocker attended the inauguration of a new courthouse in the province.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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