Friday, March 16, 2012

Potential Bergdahl deal marred?

Afghanistan rampage threatens Taliban talks


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Planned negotiations between U.S. and Taliban leaders aimed at a prisoner swap that could free captured soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl took an apparent step backward this week.

For several months, numerous media sources have reported that top Taliban leaders in Afghanistan planned to open a "political office" in Qatar, a wealthy Persian Gulf emirate, to begin negotiations with the United States. The Associated Press reported in August that the negotiations included plans for the possible swap of Bergdahl for Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

However, The Washington Post reported Thursday that Taliban leaders were "suspending preliminary peace talks with the United States because of Washington's 'alternating and ever-changing position,' and accused U.S. officials of reneging on promises to take meaningful steps toward a prisoner swap."

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The paper reported that the Taliban said the Americans initially agreed upon taking practical steps regarding the exchange of prisoners and the opening of a Qatar office for the insurgents, but have since "turned their backs on their promises" and insisted on new conditions. However, U.S. officials told the Post that their position has been unchanged since talks began more than a year ago—that the prisoner exchange and formal establishment of a political office must be preceded by a Taliban statement supporting the political process in Afghanistan and renouncing international terrorism.

Bergdahl was born and raised in Blaine County. He entered the Army in June 2008. He went missing from an Army base in the Paktika province of Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and was reported "missing captured" three days later.

Bergdahl is the only known U.S. military captive of the Taliban.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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