Bergdahl release could be discussed in Taliban peace talks

Bergdahl release could be discussed in Taliban peace talks

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by Jamie Grey

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBJamieGrey

KTVB.COM

Posted on June 19, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 20 at 7:52 PM

BOISE -- Starting Thursday, the Taliban is set to begin peace talks with the U.S. and Afghanistan. With that, there is some hope that the discussion will include a prisoner exchange to free Idaho's captured soldier Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

"U.S. officials have made it clear that getting Bowe Bergdahl back from the Taliban is still one of their top priorities," NBC Chief Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski told KTVB Wednesday.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban on June 30, 2009, and is believed to be alive and safe. Recently his family received a letter from Bergdahl through the International Committee of the Red Cross indicating he was safe.

This week the Afghan Taliban, calling itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, opened an office in Qatar with the goal of restarting talks to end the 12-year war in Afghanistan.

But peace talks have been fence in the last 24 hours because Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he wouldn't participate. However, Miklaszewski says the talks will still likely begin Thursday.

"As we've seen in the past, Karzai makes quite a bit of noise if he objects to something. Hopefully in the end, U.S. officials believe both sides will have to get together. Because it's the only way to reconciliation, that the fighting can end," Miklaszewski said.

Miklaszewski says ultimate negotiations will have to be between the Taliban and Afghanistan, not the United States. He also says it wouldn't be unusual for prisoner swaps to come up early on in a peace negotiation.

"It's not unusual when you get into peace negotiations like this that a good faith gesture at the very beginning is some kind of prisoner swap," Miklaszewski said. "So they're somewhat hopeful that they can at least broach that subject and get some kind of negotiations for a possible prisoner swap."

The problem, Miklaszewski says, is the Taliban-supporting group believed to be holding Bergdahl may be difficult to deal with, and those at the negotiations may not be people who can issue that type of exchange.

"The Haqqani Network, which really is considered the most dangerous, most irreconcilable militant element there in Afghanistan, has custody of Bowe Bergdahl. So that could prove to be a difficulty. But it's not clear yet. Nobody is even gong that far [to speculate]," Miklaszewski said.
   
The hope is to get the Taliban to renounce Al Qaeda, embrace Afghanistan's constitution and bring U.S. and NATO troops out of the country.

"U.S. officials are hopeful that beginning tomorrow [Thursday] that it will be the start of what will probably be a long, tedious, complicated, tough negotiations with the Taliban to reach reconciliation in Afghanistan, and ultimately the release of Bowe Bergdahl," Miklaszewski said.

Last year, there was talk of a prisoner swap to exchange Bergdahl for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, but there was criticism from some legislators that the five prisoners in the discussion were some of the most dangerous Taliban members. See that KTVB story here.
   
This weekend, Bergdahl's parents are expected to speak at a Bring Bowe Back event in his hometown of Hailey. The rally to support Bergdahl and his family will be Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Hot Porter Park.
 

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