Tuesday, June 10, 2014

White House suggests Bergdahl deal could help restart Afghan peace talks --- The White House on Monday suggested a fresh justification for the controversial prisoner swap it made to secure the freedom of US army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, hinting that the deal may help restart broader Afghan peace talks as officials mounted a second attempt to win over sceptical members of Congress. -- Though US negotiators deliberately separated their talks over the release of Bergdahl from wider political discussions, the administration said it was hopeful that goodwill the negotiations about his release generated with the Taliban may have a knock-on impact. -- “The goal of this recent effort was to secure the release of Sergeant Bergdahl – that was achieved – if that paves the way and builds a little trust and creates some space to enhance or restart negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government and there is a role for the United States, then we will welcome that opportunity,” said Obama spokesman Josh Earnest. -- The deal to swap Bergdahl for five Taliban fighters who’d been held at Guantánamo Bay has generated a storm of criticism in Washington, where critics have accused the White House of encouraging further kidnappings of US soldiers and questioned whether Bergdahl was a deserter. -- But after a week of standing firm against the criticism, the administration appears to be expanding the list of reasons it includes in its public explanations for the deal – even suggesting it might help eventually break diplomatic deadlock in Afghanistan, though acknowledging it is too soon to tell. -- “Common sense does indicate that because there is ongoing armed conflict in Afghanistan, there is an incentive for both sides to resolve their differences,” Earnest told reporters at a White House briefing on Monday. -- “Whether they can do that remains to be seen: the odds of that are difficult and long. If there is a process that has begun here it will be a painstaking one and not one that is resolved overnight but if we can build some trust and this does create an opportunity for more fruitful conversations so be it.” -- The White House is dispatching some of its most senior military, diplomatic and intelligence officials to Capitol Hill Monday afternoon for a classified briefing for members of the House of Representatives as part of another attempt to quell the firestorm. -- The meeting will be similar to the classified briefing provided to sceptical senators last week. Many of those senators emerged unconvinced about the wisdom of a prisoner swap they believed endangered the lives of Americans. -- The officials slated to brief members of the House on Monday are deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken; ambassador James Dobbins, the state department's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, admiral James Winnefeld. -- Robert Cardillo, a deputy director at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will also be in attendance. - More, Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/09/us-bowe-bergdahl-deal-restart-afghan-peace-talks


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