Exclusive: U.S. sweetens Taliban prisoner proposal in bid to revive peace talks
By Missy Ryan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration, in a move aimed at reviving Afghan peace talks, has sweetened a proposed deal under which it would transfer Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for a U.S. soldier held by Taliban allies in Pakistan.
The revised proposal, a concession from an earlier U.S. offer, would alter the sequence of the move of five senior Taliban figures held for years at the U.S. military prison to the Gulf state of Qatar, sources familiar with the issue said.
U.S. officials have hoped the prisoner exchange, proposed as a good-faith move in initial discussions between U.S. negotiators and Taliban officials, would open the door to peace talks between militants and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The revised proposal would send all five Taliban prisoners to Qatar first, said sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. Only then would the Taliban be required to release Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only U.S. prisoner of war.
Previously, U.S. officials had proposed dividing the Taliban prisoners into two groups, and requiring Bergdahl's release as a good-faith gesture to come before the second group of prisoners would be moved out of Guantanamo.
Bergdahl, now 26 years old, disappeared from his base in southern Afghanistan in June 2009 and is believed to be being held by Taliban militants in northwestern Pakistan.
The White House and the Bergdahl family declined to comment on the revised proposal for a deal.
The altered transfer plans were discussed with Qatari officials during a visit in mid-June by Marc Grossman, U.S. President Barack Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the sources said. It was unclear if the altered proposal had been put forward before those discussions. Continued...