US 'agrees in principle' to swap Taliban fighters for Bowe Bergdahl
The White House has "agreed in principle" to exchanging senior Taliban officials being held in Guantánamo Bay for Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier held captive since 2009, it was reported last night.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
The 25-year-old's two-and-a-half years in enemy hands has been a source of deep anxiety to the American military, which has been forced to endure goading videos posted by his Taliban captors.
According to The Times, a deal has been given initial approval as part of back channel negotiations between the US State Department and the insurgency, circumventing the Afghan government.
The plans for direct peace talks involve setting up a "political office" for the Taliban in the Gulf state of Qatar. Yesterday, a Taliban spokesman said that the discussions would not be derailed by the emergence of a video showing US Marines urinating on the bodies of dead insurgents.
- 25 Dec 2009
- 19 Jul 2009
- 08 Apr 2010
The talk are said to have come after a year of secret meeting between US diplomats and Tayyab Agha, a lieutenant of the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
Reports of their existence has caused outrage in Kabul, which believes it is being sidelined as the US engages in backroom diplomacy with its battlefield enemies. Marc Grossman, the US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will travel to Afghanistan today to placate President Hamid Karzai.
Under the terms of the deal, the US is reportedly prepared to swap up to five of the Taliban figures it has held since the beginning of the war in 2001.
There are differing versions of how Sergeant Bergdahl was captured. The Taliban claims he was snatched after wandering off of his base while drunk, an account strongly denied by the US military.
Since 2009 he has featured in at least five videos, with his captors variously demanding money and the release of prisoners in return for him.