Friday, January 13, 2012

U.S. military: report of Bergdahl release untrue

Possibility remains for ‘historic’ negotiations with Taliban


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

An English-language website claiming to be that of the Taliban in Afghanistan is denying a report of a prisoner exchange that led to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

"Aljazeera television published an unconfirmed report yesterday in which it claimed that 3 officials of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have been released from Guantanamo in exchange for the American prisoner Bergdahl which is held by Islamic emirate," the website www.shahamat-english.com stated Tuesday. "[T]hese assertions are baseless. ..."

No such report appeared to be on the Al-Jazeera website Tuesday.

The Al-Jazeera report was also debunked by SITE Monitoring Service, a business that reports on Jihadist activity in the Middle East.

Col. Tim Marsano, an official liaison between the U.S. military and the Bergdahl family in Blaine County, said he had not been informed of any such prisoner exchange.

"I have many reasons to think this [Bergdahl's release] is untrue right now," Marsano said. "SITE has been the source of good information."

Marsano said he would alert the Idaho Mountain Express if the U.S. releases substantiated news about Bergdahl.

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Yet steps toward peace negotiations between U.S. and Taliban leaders continue to move forward.

Talk of negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban leaders, and a possible prisoner exchange for Bergdahl's freedom, have been in the news since Taliban leaders last week announced plans to open a political office in Qatar.

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that the talks in Qatar would be "potentially as historic and as politically wrenching as the Paris peace talks that ended the Vietnam War."

The Times said the talks could lead to the release of at least five senior Taliban officials held at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The Times reported that a proposed prisoner exchange system would require the U.S. secretary of defense and secretary of state to certify to Congress that the government to which a Taliban detainee would be transferred had taken steps to ensure that the detainee would be restrained from engaging in terrorist activity.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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