It appears the White House is moving to transfer five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as an incentive to bring the Afghan insurgency closer to peace talks. In early January, White House officials denied a Guardian report that a "handful of Taliban figures" would be exchanged for the Taliban opening a political office in Qatar to launch negotiations. "This report is not accurate," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Atlantic Wire. "The United States has not decided to release any Taliban officials." It wasn't clear what was considered inaccurate about the story but reports this morning suggest the prisoner transfer is moving forward.
On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper and CIA Director David Petraeus did not dispute the administration is considering transferring the five Taliban prisoners to a third country in a meeting before some members of Congress. The goal of transferring the prisoners to Qatar is to give Afghan and U.S. peace negotiators a place where they can negotiate with Taliban middlemen. Previously, Afghan President Hamid Karzai opposed the Qatar transfer because it undercut his authority. However, the Associated Press reports today that Afghan officials are now on board. "Recent discussions between Karzai and U.S. negotiators found a way around the Afghan objections," senior diplomats told the news wire. "The officials said Afghanistan could assume a sort of legal custody over the prisoners and then, with the prisoners' own consent, agree to consign them to house arrest in Qatar."