Prisoner Swap? US 'Not Involved in Active Negotiations' With Taliban, Carney Says
(CNSNews.com) - "What's the U.S. position on negotiating with terrorists?" a reporter asked White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday, one day after the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration may be mulling a prisoner swap with the Taliban, to win the freedom of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2009.
"When it comes to Sergeant Bergdahl, our hearts go out to his family," Carney replied. "Sergeant Bergdahl has been gone for far too long. And we continue to call for his immediate release. We can't discuss all the details of our efforts, but there should be no doubt that we work every day, using our military, our intelligence and our diplomatic tools to see Sergeant Bergdahl return home safely.
"We are not, to go directly to your question, involved in active negotiations with the Taliban. Clearly, if negotiations do resume at some point, then we will want to talk with the Taliban about the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl."
Carney said the Obama administration supports an Afghan-led reconciliation process with the Taliban. "In the meantime, we are actively engaged in an effort to see his return. I can't document every effort, but that includes our military, our intelligence and our diplomatic tools," he repeated.
"Is the United States open to the idea of a prisoner exchange?," the reporter tried again.
"I know the story you're referring to. I can tell you that, again, we won't discuss all the details of our efforts," Carney said.
The Washington Post reported on Feb. 17 that "the Obama administration has decided to "try to resume talks with the Taliban and sweeten an offer to trade Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the Army sergeant." It quoted "current and former officials."
The newspaper said five members of the Afghan Taliban, longtime Gitmo prisoners, would be released to protective custody in Qatar in exchange for the release of Bergdahl.
"To refresh the American offer, which has been on the table for more than two years, senior officials from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies decided within the past month to allow the simultaneous release of all five men. Taliban representatives had objected to the previous plan to release the prisoners by ones or twos as a test of Taliban and Qatari intermediaries’ ability to make sure the men did not return to militancy.
"Two people familiar with the decision stressed that it was the Taliban that broke off negotiations nearly two years ago and that the U.S. door to talks has been open since."