The Taliban released a statement today that they have recently been in talks with the United States over the release of American soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Sun Valley, Idaho; but now the talks are suspended. 27-year-old Bergdahl had been imprisoned by Taliban allies, Haqqani Network, since 2009. The statement came from Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, who stated “The leadership of the Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend the process for some time due to the current complex situation in our country.” He did not specify what current complex situation it was that was influencing their decision.
The negotiations were being mediated by Qatar as the Taliban have an unofficial political office there. Initially, the talks were said to be rumors, so this is the first confirmation that they have actually taken place. The statement has confirmed that the Taliban was interested in trading Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners.
Mujahid released a second statement saying that a high-ranking delegation met with representatives of the Afghan High Peace Council in the United Arab Emirates. This statement also said that the Taliban is grateful for the February release of 65 prisoners authorized by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The release of the prisoners created outrage from the United States as many of the prisoners were believed to be Taliban allies and participated in the killing of civilians, NATO soldiers and Afghan soldiers. The prisoners were called dangers to the people of Afghanistan as well as the Afghan state.
The suspension of negotiation talks is cause for concern and U.S. officials are adamant that they are doing what they can to free Bergdahl. The state of Bergdahl’s well-being has been in question since the U.S. military received a video of him in which he appeared to be in poor health. Officials hope to have a resolution soon, partially because if there is a full troop withdrawal of American troops at the end of 2014, it would make a rescue much more difficult. Negotiating with terrorists is not a practice that the U.S. takes part in, but they have been known to “dance pretty effectively along the edge” of the said practice, according to retired Army Brigadier General , James Marks.
There is a possibility the Taliban might demand something that is not possible in return for releasing Bergdahl. Originally, the Taliban was demanding to have five prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay, but it seems to be unlikely that they will be released; lawmakers have strongly resisted releasing them, and Congress must be alerted in advance, which makes the swap seem highly improbable..
It has also been said that performing a trade of this sort would put every soldier in Afghanistan at risk, as the Taliban would simply capture more people so that they can demand the release of more Taliban members. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Van Hipp, believes that the military should allow Special Ops to perform an operation as they have done in the past with successful results.
Now that the talks have been suspended, United States Officials believe that one way to getting the American soldier released is through Qatar officials. They have been in contact with the Taliban, and Bergdahl is believed to be with operatives of the Haqqani network, who are affiliated with the Taliban and al Qaeda. It has not been clear whether the Haqqani Network would abide by an arrangement with the United States, the Taliban and Qatar.
By Lian Morrison