U.S troops set to leave Afghanistan
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
The New York Times reported on Oct. 2 that hopes for peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban militants, once aimed at ending the 11-year war, have been abandoned.
Peace talks were set last year to take place in Qatar, but abandoned in March by Taliban leaders.
“Military and diplomatic officials here (in Afghanistan) and in Washington said that despite attempts to engage directly with Taliban leaders this year, they now expect that any significant progress will come only after 2014, once the bulk of NATO troops have left,” the Times reported.
According to the Times, almost all of the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan are scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014.
“‘I don’t see it (peace talks) happening in the next couple years,’ said a senior coalition officer. He and a number of other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the effort to open talks,” reported the Times.
Do Salute, a veterans and soldiers program based in Wisconsin, has gathered more than 400,000 signatures on a petition to raise awareness of Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan on June 6, 2009. Bergdahl’s parents live in Hailey.
KABUL — The Taliban distributed a new video Friday of a U.S. soldier who was captured this summer in Afghanistan, with an offer to release him in a prisoner exchange.
A spokesman for the international forces here denounced the video, but declined to comment on the possibility of an exchange or on efforts to rescue the captive.
Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, an airborne infantryman from Ketchum, Idaho, was seized by Taliban-aligned militants on June 30. The military says he is the only American soldier who has been captured by insurgent forces during the war here.
The video shows the soldier wearing a military uniform and sunglasses and speaking directly to the camera. He identifies himself and gives his hometown, rank, blood type and mother’s maiden name. He appears healthy and not visibly harmed.
As he speaks there is a graphic on the screen reading, “An American soldier imprisoned by the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” — the official name of the Taliban organization, which the group says is the legitimate Afghan government.
U.S. soldiers at a Christmas Day prayer service in Nuristan province.
Pfc. Bergdahl criticizes America’s actions overseas, particularly in Muslim countries, and urges the U.S. to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. “This is just going to be the next Vietnam unless the American people stand up and stop all of this nonsense,” he says.
An Afghan voice-over at the end of the video says a “limited number of prisoners” should be exchanged for the captive. It is unclear when the video was made. The Taliban had announced earlier this month that they were planning to issue a video.
This is the first time a demand for a prisoner exchange for Pfc. Bergdahl has been made in a video, but the request has been made in some interviews with Taliban spokesmen. The Taliban emailed a copy of the video to The Wall Street Journal.
“This is a horrible act which exploits a young soldier, who was clearly compelled to read a statement,” U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said in a statement. “It reflects nothing more than the violent, deceitful tactics of the Taliban insurgency.”
Pfc. Bergdahl was 23 years old when he disappeared in late June after leaving his base in eastern Afghanistan. He had last appeared in a Taliban video released in early July, where he urged the U.S. to withdraw its troops. A U.S. government spokesman at the time also said that the statements were made under duress and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Kidnapped U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl
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