Taliban Suspends Talks with U.S.
6:00 PM, Mar 15, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Citing security concerns, Rogin did not report the name of the westerner who may be exchanged for the Taliban five. But the Telegraph (UK) reported in January that the Taliban was set to turn over Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who has been held captive since 2009.
Bergdahl is held by Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a Haqqani Network commander who openly proclaims his alliance with al Qaeda. In 2009, Sangeen was interviewed by al Qaeda’s media arm, As Sahab. When asked about relations between the Taliban and al Qaeda, Sangeen explained:
To the extent that the Obama administration still wants to continue with the nascent peace talks, the proposed prisoner exchange demonstrates a key flaw.
The Obama administration wants the Taliban to renounce al Qaeda. Bergdahl’s captor, however, says this is not happening any time soon. Meanwhile, the five senior Taliban leaders who would be transferred have substantive and longstanding ties to al Qaeda. That is, the prisoner swap demonstrates just how problematic the administration’s goal for the talks really is.
Before the Taliban announced that it had suspended its dialog with the U.S., the Taliban five agreed to be transferred to Qatar. But this is hardly surprising. And this angle to the story represents still another problem with the Obama administration’s attempt at dialog with the Taliban.
The choice of Qatar is especially problematic, as it is a hotbed for terrorist fundraising.
A leaked State Department cable authored on December 30, 2009, nearly one year into President Obama’s tenure, includes a summary of the problem. The cable reads (emphasis added):
The same cable repeatedly “emphasize[s] the need to prevent the Taliban from using the cover of reconciliation talks to raise funds.” This is from the same State Department that has been leading the effort at peace talks with the Taliban.
It is no wonder that top Senate Democrats have been skeptical of the proposed transfer to Qatar. Senator Feinstein told Rogin that she opposes it. And Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed similar concerns during a hearing last month.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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