Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Report: Bergdahl talks still going on

Prisoner swap would require congressional approval

Express Staff Writer

In this file photo, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a Hailey-area native, is guarded by one of his Taliban captors. IntelCenter photo

    The Daily Beast news website reported on Feb. 12 that U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Taliban for the release of Blaine County soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were still going on.
    Since that time, the world news media and military leaders have been discussing the possibility of a prisoner swap that could lead to the end of the 13 year-long Afghanistan conflict and ensure peace following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Foreign combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.
    “Today’s news indicates there are renewed efforts to use diplomacy to recover our family’s son, grandson and brother, Bowe Bergdahl,” stated a news release issued by the Bergdahl family through the Idaho National Guard. “We welcome this development and we applaud the unity of purpose and resolve at the White House and the other U.S. government agencies involved.”
     Daily Beast reporter Josh Rogin reported that a “proof of life” video received by the U.S. military in January was requested by the U.S. “as a precondition to resuming direct U.S.-Taliban talks over a prisoner swap.”
    Rogin said based on interviews with current U.S., Afghan and Pakistani senior officials, “the potential new U.S.-Taliban prisoner swap talks, which have not yet begun, are linked to a broader U.S. government effort to lay the groundwork for a potential reconciliation between the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai and the Taliban, who he has been fighting since the beginning of the decade-long U.S. occupation.”

We thank all involved for this renewed effort.”
Bergdahl family statement

    Last summer, on the fourth anniversary of Bergdahl’s capture, Secretary of State John Kerry, who has a home 15 miles from the Bergdahl family’s, was scheduled to meet with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar. The proposed peace talks did not take place as planned after the Taliban raised a flag of nationality at their office in Doha.
    “The Doha channel is still being used for contacts between the U.S. and the Taliban,” The Daily Beast was reportedly told by a Pakistani official.
    At several points during the last four and a half years, Bergdahl’s freedom has been proposed as part of a prisoner swap for five detainees being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
    CNN reported on Tuesday that a prisoner swap could face challenges from U.S. lawmakers.
    “Another U.S. official said releasing them would be difficult because Congress would have to be notified in advance, and lawmakers have previously resisted releasing them,” CNN reported.
    The Bergdahl family holds out hope that a diplomatic solution will soon bring their son home.
    “We thank all involved for this renewed effort and we hope everyone takes this opportunity seriously,” they stated. “We are cautiously optimistic these discussions will lead to the safe return of our son after more than four and a half years in captivity.”
    The U.S. Department of Defense reported this week that 2,297 U.S. military service members have died in the Afghanistan War.

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