Up to 17 Taliban militants who were captured in the early days of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and have been detained at Guantanamo for years could be moved to a prison in Afghanistan in an effort to get peace talks with the Taliban moving again, reports the AP. The detainees would not be freed, but once on Afghan soil they would be transferred to the prison next to Bagram air field, which transfers to Afghan control in September. US officials said the five most senior Taliban leaders in Guantanamo would likely not be included in the deal. But President Hamid Karzai is pushing for all 17 men; he has argued that their imprisonment undermines his credibility.
The thinking behind the transfer is that it would shift the responsibility for the combatants to the Afghan government and show moderates in the Taliban that the US is sincerely interested in peace. "There are no specific commitments that have been made with regard to prisoner exchanges at this point," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta yesterday. "One thing I will assure you is that any prisoner exchanges that I have to certify are going to abide by the law and require that those individuals do not return back into the battle." The Taliban has demanded release of all the Guantanamo detainees as a condition for talks.