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Revived Afghan Peace Talks Hinge on Prisoner Exchange: Report

Despite more than 10 years of war, deal will likely get little support in Congress

by
Common Dreams staff

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Afghan President Hamid Karzai hold a joint news conference in Kabul July 7, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Omar Sobhani)

The Obama administration, according to a report by Reuters, has sweetened a proposed deal under which it would transfer Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for a US soldier held by Taliban allies in Pakistan.

The aim of the deal would be to revive peace talks with the Taliban leadership, efforts that have been stalled by a US Congress unwilling to tolerate the release of foreign captured detainees from the Guantanamo prison facility in Cuba.

The proposal would see Taliban detainees now at Guantanamo moved to prison facilities in Qater in exchange for the release of a US Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl held by the Taliban in Pakistan. The deal was termed by officials who spoke to Reuters as a "good-faith move" which would allow for further and more meaningful talks between US negotiators and Taliban officials.

The web of complications for such a deal is inherent and similar past efforts have failed. None of the obstacles are so tricky as convincing Congress that the deal would be in the best interests of all parties. Any transference of Guantanamo prisoners demands notification to Congress and political opposition would be intense.

Reuters continues:

... analysts say there are signs that the Taliban leadership, based in Pakistan, may now be more open to a negotiated settlement, and these have included the appearance of a senior Taliban figure at a recent conference in Japan.

"The Taliban doesn't want a vacuum in Afghanistan or a civil war with the North they know they can't win," said Ahmed Rashid, a prominent Pakistani author and expert on the Taliban, referring to powerful northern warlords who battled the Taliban in the 1990s and continue to wield power in Afghanistan.

"The elements that have been dealing with the U.S. government basically want a deal."

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