- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Taliban has suspended talks on a deal that would have required the United States to free five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdhal, who is being held by an Islamist insurgent group in Pakistan.

News that the Taliban had retracted the five-for-one offer, communicated through intermediaries, surfaced early Sunday morning.

CNN said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid issued a statement saying that the group had decided “to suspend the process for some time due to the current complex political situation in the country.”

The statement did not elaborate on what those complexities were.

The Defense Department and State Department, which are working separately to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl from the clutches of the Taliban affiliated Haqqani network, are still mulling over other options for saving the soldier, according to a source familiar with the behind-the-scenes efforts to retrieve Sgt. Bergdahl.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Times that the latest development “is not a surprise.” The source said that the prisoner swap “never really had any real legitimacy.”

Still, it is an option that the U.S. government has been discussing for some time and will continue to pursue, according to the source.

Negotiations surrounding Sgt. Bergdahl will likely prove to be tricky for the U.S. government because it could not be sure what the Taliban would do with any concessions, the source said.

Earlier this week, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to choose someone, preferably a civilian, to coordinate operational activities between government entities so that Mr. Bergdahl has a better chance of being rescued.

Mr. Hunter, a former Marine officer who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, also wants Mr. Hagel to confirm that there is a non-military option on the table for securing Sgt. Bergdahl’s release.

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