A U.S. soldier who has been held captive by the Taliban since 2009 may be released under new prospective peace talks, though similar negotiations have failed before.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl went missing in June 2009 and is believed to be held in Pakistan by the Haqqani Network, a militant group associated with the Taliban. The Taliban told the Associated Press it would be willing to release Bergdahl, now 26, in exchange for five senior operatives currently held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. An attempt to strike a similar deal collapsed early last year.
News of these talks has been met with harsh criticism from the Afghan government, which has canceled its own negotiations with the U.S. to plan the post-2014 drawdown.
Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail told the AP that the U.S. would first have to release the detainees from Guantanamo Bay to "build bridges of confidence." He confirmed that Bergdahl is "as far as I know in good condition."
Bergdahl's captors have released a handful of videos of the sergeant in prison clothing reading prepared statements.
A State Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the U.S. would consider such an exchange.
"Absolutely we will want to talk with the Taliban about the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl," said spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "He has been gone for too long, and we continue to call for and work toward his safe and immediate release."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday the recovery of Bergdahl is "fundamentally important to us."
This is not the first time the U.S. and Taliban have considered peace talks and the prospect of a deal to release Bergdahl. Negotiations in March 2012 collapsed after both sides could not agree on swapping Bergdahl for five prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
President Barack Obama said last December he planned to begin a new round of talks following the conclusion of the summer fighting season and the U.S. presidential election. Nora Bensahel, an Afghanistan expert, told U.S. News at the time that the success of these talks is unlikely, but worth persuing.
"Some sort of political settlement with the Taliban is seen by some in the administration as critical to moving forward in Afghanistan after troops leave," said Bensahel, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. "War is always a political objective."
Top leaders on both sides may not reach an agreement, but publicity about the talks could prompt lower-ranking officials to begin dialogues in turn, she says.