US May Release Taliban Leaders From Gitmo
January 5, 2012
by Steve Gilbert
From the UK’s Guardian:
Taliban leaders held at Guantánamo Bay to be released in peace talks deal
US agrees in principle to releasing top officials from Afghanistan insurgent group in exchange for starting process of negotiations.
Julian Borger, and Jon Boone in Kabul
Tuesday 3 January 2012
The US has agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantánamo Bay in return for the Afghan insurgents’ agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations in Qatar, the Guardian has learned.
According to sources familiar with the talks in the US and in Afghanistan, the handful of Taliban figures will include Mullah Khair Khowa, a former interior minister, and Noorullah Noori, a former governor in northern Afghanistan.
More controversially, the Taliban are demanding the release of the former army commander Mullah Fazl Akhund. Washington is reported to be considering formally handing him over to the custody of another country, possibly Qatar.
The releases would be to reciprocate for Tuesday’s announcement from the Taliban that they are prepared to open a political office in Qatar to conduct peace negotiations “with the international community” – the most significant political breakthrough in ten years of the Afghan conflict.
The Taliban are holding just one American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, a 25-year-old sergeant captured in June 2009, but it is not clear whether he would be freed as part of the deal…
Michael Semple, a former EU envoy in Afghanistan who has maintained contact with senior Taliban figures, [says] that the deal represented a critical moment.
“This is at last a real process,” Semple, now at Harvard University, said. “There is a long list of things we don’t have and there has been no progress on substantive issues. But now there is a certain amount of momentum. Every discussion over the past couple of years has been heavy on western enthusiasm with nothing substantial from the other side.”
This time, he said, it was clear that the top Taliban council – including its reclusive leader, Mullah Omar – was on board with the proposal. In return, Semple said he thought the release of a few prisoners from Guantánamo Bay was politically feasible for the Obama administration, even in an election year…
This shocking development — just like the bombings in Iraq, and the rise of Al Qaeda in Libya, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s election victories in Egypt — has gotten very little attention in the US press.
Apparently, our media watchdogs don’t want to report anything that could undercut the fantasy of Obama’s fabulous foreign policy successes.
Meanwhile, we have this latest development from Reuters:
Pakistani Taliban say kill 15 soldiers, vow further “revenge”
By Jibran Ahmad
January 5, 2012
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – The Pakistani Taliban have killed 15 kidnapped troops in revenge for military operations against them near the Afghan border, a Taliban spokesman said Thursday, vowing further such attacks…
Local officials confirmed that 15 bodies, with signs of torture and gunshot wounds, had been found in the Thal area of the northwestern Hangu district, near the unruly northwestern tribal areas along the porous border with Afghanistan.
The Pakistani soldiers were kidnapped on Dec 23 when dozens of Taliban militants stormed a paramilitary fort in the northwestern Tank district.
Formed in 2007, the TTP is an umbrella group of various Pakistani militant factions operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Allied with the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, it pledged to overthrow the Pakistani government after the military started operations against militant groups…