The Obama administration has offered to transfer several Taliban fighters from Guantánamo Bay in exchange for the release of the only U.S. prisoner of war in an effort to revive peace talks in Afghanistan, Missy Ryan of Reuters reports. Officials said the proposal – which involves sending five senior Taliban members to Qatar if the Taliban agree to release Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl – is a concession from an earlier U.S. offer that would have divided the Taliban prisoners into two groups and required Bergdahl’s freedom before the second group would be moved from Gitmo.
Bergdahl, 26, is believed to be being held by Taliban militants in northwestern Pakistan since June 2009. He reportedly had given several indications that he might “walk off into the mountains” leading up to his captivity.
The prisoner exchange is meant to be a good-faith in initial discussions between U.S. negotiators and Taliban officials that spurs peace talks between militants and the Afghan government.
In January Taliban leadership reportedly reached a preliminary agreement to open a political office in Doha, Qatar, but suspended negotiations in March after they accused the American representative of changing the preconditions for the talks.
The U.S. has been secretly releasing high-level insurgents from a military prison in Afghanistan in an attempt to suppress violence in restive regions.
Gitmo currently houses 168 detainees. The five Taliban prisoners mentioned are not among the 87 prisoners were cleared for release – one of them, Mullah Mohammed Fazl, is a “high-risk detainee” who was in the first group sent to Guantanamo in early 2002.
Ryan reports that the group also includes Noorullah Noori, a former top military commander; former deputy intelligence minister Abdul Haq Wasiq; and Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former interior minister.
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