As the war in Afghanistan slowly comes to an end, the United States government is reported to be actively attempting to soon gain the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held captive by the Taliban since 2009. Bergdahl, of Wood River Valley, Idaho, is the only American soldier still in captivity. He was taken prisoner when, for reasons unknown, he walked off his base in Afghanistan. A large-scale hunt in hopes of rescuing him before he was taken to Pakistan proved futile.
According to CNN, a government source has revealed that the U.S. has begun a renewed bid to gain Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom and is now involved in discussions with overseas mediators in an attempt to determine whether his release can be secured. The source, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the talks taking place, reported that the negotiations are being led by United States diplomats and the Defense Department. Although the Pentagon’s spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, declined to comment on the report, the family of Bergdahl was very excited to receive the news.
The senator of Bergdahl’s home state, Mike Crapo, stated that his highest priority is to gain the release of the hostage and that he is certain that it is the highest priority in other government officials’ minds as well. White House spokesman Jay Carney stated today that the U.S. is not actively negotiating with the Taliban, but that the country is engaged every day in efforts to bring Bergdahl home.
Although the push to win Bergdahl’s freedom is being described as a “renewed” effort, the U.S. government insists that it has put forth a sustained effort to win his release for the past 4 1/2 years. The U.S. official does admit that a video of Bowe Bergdahl in poor health, which was intercepted by the military in January, and the fear that when America pulls out of Afghanistan at the end of the year the opportunity to attempt a rescue will have passed, has given rise to a sense of haste.
The U.S. has long held that it will not negotiate with terrorists such as the Taliban, but according to retired Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks, that does not mean that the country will not push the limits of its declaration, especially when considering the little time remaining for U.S. troops to be in Afghanistan. The withdrawal soon of troops would also ease any fears of the government that releasing Taliban detainees in exchange for U.S. soldiers would only serve to provide more terrorists to fight American soldiers.
A prior offer by America to release five Guantanamo prisoners in a staggered fashion led to the breakdown of talks with the Taliban two years ago. Although the offer has remained for the Taliban since, government officials recently decided to up their offer to gain the freedom of Bergdahl by allowing all five men to be released to the custody of Qatar at the same time.
Should the Taliban accept the offer to release the Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, the talks may soon stall due to the fact that Congress, who has to be notified before any release of detainees would occur, has historically been unwilling to do so. The fear is that if the U.S. responds to the Taliban’s demands in this case, terrorists worldwide would believe that capturing American soldiers is an effective means of seeing their demands met. Another possible roadblock is the existence of several insurgent groups, some of which would be accessible only through talks with another group, risking the possibility that one group may not follow an agreement made between the United States and the Taliban.
By Jennifer Pfalz