May 10th, 2012
01:54 PM ET

POW parents reveal secret talks with Taliban

By Barbara Starr and Adam Levine

U.S. negotiations with the Taliban that have now stalled include an American proposal for the release of Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009, U.S. officials tell CNN.

"In the discussions with the Taliban there have been a series of confidence-building measures discussed. I am not going to deny that one of those potential confidence-building measures has been the release of Bowe Bergdahl," one U.S. official said.

Until now the administration has never directly acknowledged the discussions included Bergdahl. But in interviews with the New York Times and the Idaho Mountain Express, published Wednesday night, Bergdahl's parents said that the fate of their son was part of the negotiations.

The family told the New York Times they were speaking out because of frustration over a lack of progress in the talks.

"Everybody is frustrated with how slowly the process has evolved," Robert Bergdahl told the Idaho paper.

An administration official insisted that work is going on "every day, military and diplomatic," in an effort to get Bergdahl released.

"Our hearts go out to Bergdahl family and friends," the official said. "We want our guy back. Period."

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters on Thursday that he's met with the Bergdahl's himself several times.

"I can assure you that we are doing everything in our power, using our intelligence resources across the government, to try to find, locate him," General Martin Dempsey said at a Pentagon press conference.

The discussion on releasing Bergdahl was "in the context" of reconciliation talks, the administration official said.

Recommended: The Taliban who may leave Guantanamo

The officials CNN spoke with declined to be identified because of the ongoing sensitivity of the matter, but agreed to discuss the issue now that the Bergdahl family is doing so.

"The Taliban understood the release would help build our confidence of their willingness to reconcile," the administration official added. The exchange would not necessarily have meant all five would be released at one time.

"Some sort of sequence would have been worked out," the administration official said. The source gave an example of a couple of prisoners being moved, and then when Bergdahl was released, the other three would be transferred.

"The Taliban understands his release would help build our confidence" in their willingness to reconcile, the administration official said.

Neither official knew how high up in the Taliban organization the discussion of Bergdahl reached. On the U.S. side, a top State Department official - U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc 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 their diplomatic office in Qatar in March complaining of the United States' "alternating and ever-changing position."

There were 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.

The idea of releasing the Guantanamo prisoners to encourage reconciliation talks has been controversial and met with opposition from some key members of Congress.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services committee, said earlier this year it was "really, really bizarre" that the United States would release detainees to encourage peace talks. McCain's office would not comment Thursday.

In a letter to President Barack Obama sent in February, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, a former Marine officer who served in Afghanistan, warned that the release would "send the wrong message to the Taliban."

"Releasing prisoners strictly for the purpose of accelerating negotiations undermines the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and deliberately ignores the threat of a Taliban resurgence," Hunter wrote.

He repeated his concerns to CNN in a statement e-mailed Thursday.

"If there's a chance to release an American prisoner, then that's something that needs to be taken seriously, but there are options and resources beyond detainee release," Hunter said. "The problem is that we don't know who these detainees are or the likelihood that they'll return to the battlefield to capture or kill more Americans. The odds are pretty good that they'll be back to targeting Americans at first chance. That's what they do, they're experts at killing Americans and facilitating attacks."

He placed an amendment in the just-approved House defense authorization bill that extends the amount of time the administration must give notice to Congress before any release from 30 days to 90 days, Hunter's spokesman, Joe Kasper, told CNN. The amendment further requires that a full history of the detainee be provided along with an assessment of the likelihood the detainee would return to the field of battle.

"The congressman understands the situation. He's served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as a Marine, and anytime there are reports of Marines and soldiers facing difficult or dangerous situations, he fully understands what it means and what's involved," Kasper said.

The U.S. official said, "Nothing is more important to us than getting a soldier back who has been taken prisoner. We have never lost the energy to do that. There have been enormous efforts to locate and recover him."

But this official and others have long said the difficulty is that Bergdahl is believed to be held inside Pakistan by the Haqqani network, which is believed 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.

Dempsey said the military has not forgotten about Bergdahl.

"If you go to the CENTCOM command center, where, you know, their conference room, there's about a four-by-six-foot poster of Bowe Bergdahl sitting in front of the podium to remind them, and therefore us, every day that he remains missing in action. I can assure you of that," he said.

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  26. nicholasmrazek

    Wish I could have joined the military, but like an idiot I hung out withe wrong people and made choice's that gave me a negative criminal background, I can't even vote... This is all my falt, but I am still a patriot and would die for my country and my neighbor, as long as he has honor in his life, I respect every man and woman fighting for my rights and freedoms, I tip my hat and will open the door for any of you , you all have my prayer's and my respect! With that I say thankyou and godbless !!!

    May 13, 2012 at 1:46 am | Reply
  27. Sal

    Perhaps "seize fire" isn't an English speaking person and is from another country other than the US.  Think about it.

    May 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  28. Mike

    "The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters on Thursday that he's met with the Bergdahl's himself several times."
    CNN!!! You don't use an apostrophe to pluralize names! This is the THIRD glaring error I've found since yesterday afternoon.

    May 12, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
  29. Bob

    American POW..Just Bring Him Home..when one American Soldier not worth fighting for, America has lost !!

    May 12, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
  30. Anony1

    First and foremost I am deeply sorry for the family and the soldier held in captivity. It is most unfortunate that humans in higher positions play games with other humans who are less fortunate, or less motivated, or less whatever-the-reason that they don't hold the power themselves. It is truly right for the family and the community and all of us to pray and hope that this soldier is treated as well as possible and is the given the opportunity to return home.


    Humans have always used other humans to build their dreams, do their bidding, and suffer their losses. War is no better example of this. While the cause of every war can be said in millions upon billions of different ways, the facts of war remain the same. Those who sit at the top of the chain hold the power and play with the lives of their subordinates. It is impossible for the greater whole to consider the needs of all the individual pieces that make it up. As much as it pains me to say this, and as much as I understand and respect the frustrations and needs of the suffering family, the United States and it's military cannot truly comply with the wants of the family, the wants of the Taliban, or the wants of anything that would undermine the greater interest of itself.

    A decision to enlist in military service encompasses an acceptance of any and all fate or fates you could encounter in your service to your country. It is so saddening that one decision can affect not just your life but the lives of those you care about and those who care about you but it is even more saddening that the expectations and sacrifices you will accept when you sign the paper aren't explicitly written out or stated, for not everyone can think of everything, and not everyone thinks more then a step ahead.

    My thoughts and prayers to all those who put themselves in harms way, whether they do so with the full understanding of what they are doing, or not.

    May 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  31. ddcuttill

    u guys r idiots

    May 11, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
  32. RetiredVet

    The only exchange should be that Bradly Manning should replace Bowe Bergdahl, leave the Taliban in Gitmo. let the Taliban have fun with that P.O.S. Manning.

    May 11, 2012 at 9:43 am | Reply
    • Clinton

      Hrmm... can i second that? Traitor wants to share secrets to the world... let him talk to the Taliban... stupid E-4 doesn't know anything important anyway... see if he can talk his way out of getting his head cut off... Traitor...

      May 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  33. WLC

    It is truly sad for this young soldier to see another day being held in captivity. I can only figure perhaps why this soldiers story is mostly played down. Something about him leaving post by himself, got him into the predicament that he is in.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  34. Mark

    Idiot Idiot America....shouldve just let the Soviets take care of them..but no instead, you supplied the taliban with weapons cuz you were afraid of Soviet takeover of Afghanistan. The Soviets would've destroyed the taliban if it were not for US weapons.

    Now Americas spent trillions on the Afghan war and this war is very unpopular with the public.

    Keep bowing down to the Ziionist bankers, we'll see where that gets you.

    Like they say, "you made your bed, now sleep in it" bastards.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Reply
    • Yakobi

      You sound like a Paki.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply
    • Clinton

      You sound as if you know 1 side of the story... What about the Soviets Arming the Vietnamese? The Chinese fighting with the North Koreans... maybe the Russians and the Chinese should have left those country's alone so they would not have dictators today? Without supplies from Russia and China neither of those communist country's would exist today... The Russians didn't belong in Afghanistan because Afghanistan never attacked Russia... Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan and attacked the United States... That's why we're there, we lit up the Taliban and Al Qaeda, pushed the Al Qaeda folks out of the country but the Taliban remains... we kill dozens of them for every American that dies, it's not that we're losing any battles... it's just that we don't want to be in Afghanistan fighting the Afghanis over who runs their country, we want them to determine that, and become strong enough that Al Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan as a base of operations. That's why we're there... Sorry Mark, that whatever country you live in doesn't have the guts or the fortitude to defend itself but we do and we're doing it.

      May 11, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
      • robroy

        well Clinton,what a great history lesson !!!. lets see if historical facts are correct the French were in Vietnam and then you folks had to stick your nose in where it's not belonged ,just who was going to arm these people against foreign intervention ?North Korea? MacArthur wasn't just satisfied running across the Korean peninsula,no he wanted to stir the pot with China. it's called the arms market Clinton and if you don't know already,you folks,America,China,Russia,France and Britain all sit on the U.N. security council and are also the 5 largest arms dealers in the see Clinton when you folks put your hand over your heart as you hear your anthem and your eye's water up,alot of people in your country look at this as only a great business opportunity!!!

        May 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  35. J'accuse

    I am from the community that Bergdahl is from. We all want him back. Main street has a yellow ribbon tied around every tree, and they have been there since his capture. Standing With Bowe June 30, 2009.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
    • Clinton

      J'accuse, I pray that he comes home safe and sound. Your community sounds like a nice place to live considering the outreach for this young man.

      May 11, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
  36. nicholasmrazek

    Thanks, atleast if he does come home, he can move away from our goverment and its political agenda

    May 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  37. A Marine Parent

    I heard about Sgt Bergdahl about 7 months ago when my son was deployed. I have been praying for this man's release since. This story has been played down with not much press for a long time. Somehow, someone needs to rescue this POW and stop using him as a political bargaining chip.

    May 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  38. nicholasmrazek

    Kinda off subject... But does the goverment pay him for the whole time he has been prisoner of war once he is released?

    May 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
    • Kim

      yes, he gets paid.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Reply
    • Allan St. George

      Active duty Soldiers who are officially determined to be a Captive, Prisoner of War, Missing, Missing in Action, interned in a foreign country, captured, beleaguered or besieged by a hostile force, or detained in a foreign country against their will are entitled to receive or have credited to account the pay and allowances to which entitled when missing status began or to which a member becomes entitled later.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  39. Kris

    In general, you're pretty much doomed if you get taken hostage in this region. I feel for the family of this soldier.

    May 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
    • Clinton

      Normally i would agree with you but in this case i disagree. If you are captured in Afghanistan and you're not dead after they've had ample time to make a video about it, say, maybe a week or two, then there is a good chance you're going to stay alive. The Taliban want something, they wouldn't keep him alive if they didn't... I'm assuming there are specific people they want released that are more valuable to them than making another murder video.

      May 11, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  40. James


    May 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  41. yup

    Our country really has a set of balls. And the term we will never deal with terrorist is B/S.....we have been handing them billions of dollars in turn that had been used to kill our men and woman.

    May 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  42. nicholasmrazek

    Maybe we could trade them back the drugs they sent over here and a few gas stations instead?

    May 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  43. beezy

    i hope they r only talking to them to get a location and send the sf in and snatch him up and they r not gonna release the terrorist detainees. those people r evil. the US does not negotiate with terrorists.

    May 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
    • kingforaday151

      you really don't think the U.S. negotiates with these people? I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it's awfully naive to think that world leaders, terrorists included, don't regularly communicate.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  44. nicholasmrazek

    Paul, you have made an awsome statement!!! And now its a fact

    May 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Reply
  45. nicholasmrazek

    Let them go, give us our boy back, he has been there a long time ill donate cash if there is a way to bribe someone to move these talks faster

    May 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Reply
  46. Chuck Jasper, Ga.

    "Releasing prisoners strictly for the purpose of accelerating negotiations undermines the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and deliberately ignores the threat of a Taliban resurgence," Hunter wrote. This isn't "strictly"about negotiations. It's about a soldier's life. I know all the "he volunteered, he knew what he was getting in to" rhetoric, but that is not the issue is it? The issue is do we let him die or do we do EVERYTHING we can do to save his life?

    May 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Reply
    • nw93kn1

      I see how you would want to help your soldiers but what if doing everything for this soldier ends up putting more soldiers at risk? It doesn't seem as simple as you are making it out to be.

      May 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  47. paul321

    So the Taliban admit that a US soldier is worth at least 5 of them.

    May 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  48. bczu

    They shouldn't have released this to the media.

    May 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Reply
    • Kate

      I disgree. Clearly, their son is viewed as a pawn, not a person. It puts his face and his story in the spotlight and creates a bit of public outrage. If their son his forgoteen, he'll never come home. They did what they had to do.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Reply
      • Clinton

        Kate, you obviously have no F!@#$ing clue what you're talking about. In the Military we do not "forget" about our own. You may think the Government is cold and doesn't give a damn about people, but the bottom line is, when you're talking about the military, you're talking about a big huge family... We feel like the men and women that serve with us are our brothers and sisters... we fight for eachother and die for eachother... You obviously don't have a clue what you're talking about... Some folks don't have honor, like you, so you think the worst, but the truth is, we don't leave our brothers and sisters behind... not if anything can be done about it.

        May 11, 2012 at 11:33 am |
      • Alan S

        To Kate: Yes, the enemy is using Sgt. Bergdahl as a pawn. As enemies have done for millennia.

        To Clinton: I agree with many of the comments you made in this thread, but I just as often wince at your unnecessarily harsh way of expressing your point of view. To tell Kate that she has no honor is pointlessly rude and contributes nothing to the discussion.

        May 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  49. aaon

    " The exchange would not necessarily have meant all five would be released at one time. " Who are the other four ? No mention in the report about them. O-o...

    May 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
    • Chuck Jasper, Ga.

      5 detainees from Guantanamo.

      May 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Reply
  50. iraqvet05

    I'm suprised the Taliban held his so long. POWs in Iraq were usually killed soon after their capture.

    May 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
    • Eric Long

      There've been some hostages that they've held for years I think. Big Daddy Bush said it best. You can't negotiate with terrorists. Unfortunately, I doubt that this will end well. We really need to just start dumping major artillery on these hoodlums.

      May 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply


    May 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Reply
    • Amp

      I think that chair is right , but I would want everything and anything that could be done, if it was my family that was held ..

      May 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • Beatrix Kiddo


      What dictionary did you find that in?

      May 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
      • JuneCleaversBeaver

        Caught that too huh? I honestly don't know how some of these folks are able to type in their log in info without spelling it incorrectly. At least this person didn't re-comment and try to tell you that it was a "typo". LMAO

        May 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • alf564

      Spelling or wrong word, you are right on.....doesn't matter anyway. The taliban will be back in power soon and all will be as it was, you know, women used for breeding, no education for females and they are not allowed out without being fully covered and have a family male escort....real progress on the religious front **LOL**

      May 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply

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