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Taliban offers to swap American POW for five Gitmo detainees

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US soldier Bowe Bergdahl has been held hostage by the Taliban since his disappearance from his unit on June 30, 2009.

The Afghan Taliban has offered to hand over the only known American prisoner of war from the conflict in Afghanistan in exchange for five senior operatives held at Guantanamo Bay, Taliban sources told NBC News.

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 27, from Hailey, Idaho, has been held captive since 2009 after going missing from his base in Afghanistan. His whereabouts are not known, but it is believed he is being held in Pakistan by the Haqqani network.

“Bowe Berghadl is very well and is treated like a special guest,” a top Afghan Taliban commander told NBC News. “For us he is an important bird as it is him whose capture has paved the way for the release of our former five top commanders from Guantanamo Bay.”

Berghdal’s father said last year that he felt like his son’s captivity at the hands of the Taliban “is not being addressed,” according to Reuters.

The five Taliban fighters the group has demanded in exchange for Bergdahl include Mulla Fazal Akhund, Noorullah Noori, Abdul Haq Waseeq, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammad Nabi, Taliban sources said.

“I feel that I have to do my job as his father,” Bob Bergdahl said at the time. “I’m working toward a diplomatic and humanitarian solution.”

The Bergdahl family is “encouraged by the recent news,” Col. Tim Marsano of the Idaho National Guard, a spokesman for the family, said in an email on Thursday.

The family released a statement on June 6 saying they had received a letter through the Red Cross that they were “confident” had been written to them by their son.

“Our family is greatly relieved and encouraged by this letter, which gives us hope that Bowe is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances,” the family said in the statement. “We hope Bowe’s captors will again consider his parents’ plea to release him, but in the meantime, we ask that you please continue to keep him in good health and allow him to keep corresponding with us.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that he would suspend his government’s involvement in talks between the US and the Taliban on Wednesday, barely 24 hours after Obama administration officials announced that they would hold talks in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The Taliban announced that it would open an office in Doha for what an administration official called “milestone” talks, but a senior official for the insurgent group said “formal” discussions would not begin without the release of Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo.

Secretary of State John Kerry called Karzai twice in 24 hours after the Afghan president accused the US of a “contradiction” in agreeing to talks with the Taliban, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

The Taliban office in Doha “must not be treated as or represent itself as an embassy or other office representing the Afghan Taliban, as an emirate government or sovereign,” Psaki said.

Kerry is expected to travel to Doha this weekend to meet with Qatari officials in advance of talks on the deteriorating situation in Syria.

The Taliban commander told NBC News that they would either turn Bergdahl over to the US or a third party if the five Guantanamo prisoners were released and transported to Qatar.


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