U.S. sweetens offer to Taliban to swap Bergdahl for prisoners
U.S. is offering to transfer Taliban prisoners to Qatar in exchange for captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl
August 8th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

U.S. sweetens offer to Taliban to swap Bergdahl for prisoners

By Elise Labott

In an effort to revive peace talks with the Taliban, the Obama administration has sweetened a proposed prisoner swap under which it would transfer five Taliban prisoners to Qatar in exchange for a U.S. soldier held by the Taliban, senior U.S. officials said.

The new proposal involves sending all five Taliban prisoners to Qatar first, before the Taliban releases Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the sources said. The original offer proposed transferring the Taliban prisoners into two groups, with Bergdahl being released in between.

The new offer was first reported by Reuters.

The officials stress that the exchange, should it take place, would be implemented in accordance with U.S. law, which requires consultations with Congress before any detainees are transferred from Guantanamo.

At a State Department briefing Wednesday, Patrick Ventrell, an acting deputy spokesman, said the release of the detainees is not a sure thing.
"At this point, the United States has not decided to transfer the Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay," he said.

He added that the U.S. does not discuss its internal deliberations on the issue.

Washington has hoped the prisoner exchange would be seen as a good-faith gesture in initial talks between U.S. and the Taliban, which would pave the way for formal reconciliation talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai.

For months, U.S. officials have acknowledged ongoing negotiations with the Taliban that include the American proposal for the release of Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009.  The officials told CNN there have been a series of "confidence-building measures" discussed for his release in the context of reconciliation talks, which have been stalled.

Bergdahl's family has also told news organizations the fate of their son was part of the negotiations.  In May, the family told The New York Times they were speaking out because of frustration over a lack of progress in the talks.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman raised the revised proposal in June with officials in Qatar, which has played a key role in talks over the last two years between the U.S. and Taliban.  Grossman had met with Taliban representatives earlier this year and in a series of talks in 2011.  The talks have now largely been suspended.  The Taliban suspended its diplomatic office in Qatar in March, complaining of the United States' "alternating and ever-changing position."

U.S. officials cite a series of indicators that the Taliban is under pressure from NATO and Afghan forces and could be ready to talk about a deal to end the Afghan war.

James Cunningham, the new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, told a Senate panel in July at his confirmation hearing that Taliban leaders are "signaling they are open to negotiations," although he said the Taliban must end its alliances with terrorist groups like al Qaeda before the U.S. would endorse any peace deal.

Other officials have pointed to statements by Taliban representatives distancing themselves from the group's relationship with al Qaeda and saying that they would be willing to accept ideas supported in Afghan society, like sending girls to school. Recently, Karzai invited Taliban leader Mullah Omar to take part in the Afghan political process, and last month, a Taliban representative attended an international conference on Afghan reconciliation in Japan.

"These are choices the Afghans and Taliban make, but we have seen some movement in the past few months," one senior official said. "Increasingly, there is an Afghan population that is turning away from the Taliban and a drumbeat of Taliban saying we don't think we can win this and we are getting left behind, so maybe we should talk."

Given the improved climate, officials suggest the revived prisoner deal could be an impetus to jumpstart talks.

"Whether this is going to work or whether it is going to lead to anything, who knows," one senior official said.

The idea of releasing the Guantanamo prisoners to encourage reconciliation talks has been controversial and met with opposition from some key members of Congress, who warned that the release would send the wrong message to the Taliban.

There have been concerns on the U.S. side that not enough assurances had been given in Qatar that the released detainees would not be able to return to Afghanistan and rejoin the fight.

Officials have long said Bergdahl is believed to be in Pakistan, held by the Haqqani network, which is thought to be moving him around often, making it difficult to track him. The United States, he said, has been pressing the Pakistanis as well to get him released.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Diplomacy • Gitmo • Qatar • Taliban • Terrorism
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  2. Everett Wallace

    I like the taliban!

    August 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  3. Killer O'Bama

    I wish to thank Reasonable1 for being on my side. It's good to see that there are people like this who like the bloodshed over there. Thank you Reasonable1 for your support!

    August 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
    • Reasonable1

      You are welcome, Mr. President. We appreciate how you got rid of the biggest Islamist pest called Osama Bin Laden. Thank you for making the world a safer place in spite of numerous attacks from Islamists. 4 more years!

      August 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  4. Gary

    Please look up www. sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Banda_Singh_Bahadur
    Massacre and torture of Sikh by Muslim terrorists.

    August 9, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply
  5. Sodomite

    Reasonable1 is anything but.

    August 9, 2012 at 1:09 am | Reply
  6. shawn

    what happened to our government that said "we do not negotiate witht he terrorists?? obama might as well give the taliban the white house!

    August 9, 2012 at 12:28 am | Reply
  7. Reasonable1

    @ Lyndsie Graham, i.e. George Patton, i.e. Sodomite, i.e Chelsea - You are using multiple names but obviously are the same person who is overjoyed by the fact that Obama is reluctantly compelled to make a deal with your terrorist friends to save the precious life of a young American soldier.

    I looked up both Sikh and Muslim religions - and I learned that they are so different. I also learned that Sikh were terrorized by brutal Muslim butchers for centuries, you could look it up yourself. Clearly, the animal who shot Sikhs because he mistook them for Muslim was a complete fool.

    August 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply
    • Ignorance101

      You guys are idiots, all of you. Just like that Sikh shooter you guys are morons and you should know this, because one day this sense of misguided dumbfounded righteousness will lead you to do something stupid as it should. Muslims have not terrorized sikhs, they live in peace together all over India. Sikhs did infact assassinate an Indian prime minister after he was involved in a genocide which killed thousand of Sikhs. Among the mess, there were riots and in riots there were muslims who killed sikhs, sikhs who killed muslims, hindus who killed sikhs, sikhs who killed muslims and muslims who killed hindus. There were also christians involved in these riots. It happens quite often and is normal.

      Taliban has nothing to do with Islam you idiot and the term Islamist is stupid. Do realize that 25-30% of this world is currently muslim. This religion you called a cult has survived thousands of years of oppression and criticism. If you look at history, Christians have killed far more people and that happens to be true even today.

      August 8, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Reply
      • Aarky

        Ignorance–You could get your message across even better if you didn't insult people. After watching the US negotiations with Iran over non-existant nukes, and having to listen to the US try to jerk them around, the Taliban reps were justified in canceling any further talks. Reading the statements from the newest US Ambassador to Afghanistan shows the classic BS of whistling past their potential graveyard. Their stupidly cheery statements that the Taliban is going to negotiate an end to the war is delusional at best. As for Bergdahl, he walked away from his base deliberatly before being captured by the Talibs. If history is any indicator of the future, he may wind up like a number of Russian soldiers who deserted. They married Afghan women, had kids, and are still living in Afghanistan.

        August 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  8. Reasonable1

    @Really – There is one and only one explanation: George Patton is an Islamist. Only an Islamist would be so happy to make a deal with the Taliban. Obama is reluctantly negotiating to save the precious life of an American soldier - not because it would make him happy.
    Ramadan is a Festival of Terror – so, George Patton, an Islamist, is very happy about making a deal with the terrorists. George Patton, why are you hiding behind an Anglo name - why don't you come out of the closet and admit that you are Islamic?

    August 8, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
    • Sodomite

      What's so bad about being Islamic?

      August 8, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Reply
      • Lyndsie Graham

        Nothing Sodomite, except that those right-wing fanatics who don't know what Islam is all about are bound to comdemn it. Moreover, most people in the West don't even know than Islam and Sikhism are two completely different religions.

        August 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
      • Reasonable1

        @Sodomite, George Patton, Lyndsie Graham – Obviously, you are the same Islamic person. Nothing wrong with being Islamic at all. Please note that I am not claiming that all Muslims are bad because it is statistically possible that there are a few non-violent Muslims. And I have nothing against those good people. But since your comment encourages making deals with terrorists, it is clear that you are NOT a part of that 1% non-violent group. Your gleeful support for terrorism makes you a part of the remaining 99% of the Islamic population who either openly or tacitly support terrorism.

        August 8, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
      • Lyndsie Graham, George Patton, Sodomite et al

        Reasonable1 you are smarter than I thought. You nailed me bro (that's how we call people in Pakistan). Yes, Lyndsie Graham, George Patton, Sodomite, and I are the same person from Islamabad Pakistan. I tried to change my writing style with each fake IDs, but you know it's not easy!

        August 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  9. George Patton

    This is the best news to come out of Afghanistan in a very long time. Let's just hope that the two sides follow up on this prisoner exchange and hopefully this may lead to a negotiated settlement and our exit from that country.

    August 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Reply
    • Really George?

      "Let's just hope that the two sides follow up on this prisoner exchange and hopefully this may lead to a negotiated settlement and our exit from that country." What kind of crap is that, this is terrorist that they are talking about letting go. The #1 rule we don't negotiate with terrorist. So we give them five and we get one. When he signed up for the military he knew what risk he was putting himself into. You must be a flower child.

      August 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
      • Chelsea

        I don't see anything wrong with George's optimistic perspective or hopes. And yes, although terrorism is a horrific, nothing is wrong for us to hope the best between the negotiations.

        August 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
      • Reasonable1

        No, George Patton is not a flower child. He sounds like a Pakistani Islamic troll who posts under many different aliases and keeps thanking Pakistan for ridiculous reasons. He does not have much logic and recycles the same old thing again and again. He is Pakistani and Islamic – that makes him a two-time loser!

        August 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |

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