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US considers Taliban commander transfer back to Afghanistan

US officials are contemplating the transfer of Mohammed Fazl, a senior commander of the Taliban, to Afghanistan, in hopes of paving the way to peace talks.

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Captured Taliban fighters are presented to the media in Herat, Afghanistan on November 30, 2011. Herat security forces captured four insurgents from Herat, officials said in a statement. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States is considering the transfer of a senior Taliban official, suspected of major human rights abuses, into Afghan custody, in order to improve prospects of a peace deal in Afghanistan, according to a Reuters exclusive.

Mohammed Fazl, a senior commander of the Taliban, is considered a “high risk detainee” and has been held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison since early 2002. He is allegedly responsible for the killing of thousands of Afghanistan’s minority Shiite Muslims between 1998 and 2001, Reuters reported.

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The possible transfer of Fazl has set off alarms in Washington, as well as with intelligence officials. According to a US intelligence official, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, there has been intense bipartisan opposition in Congress over the possible transfer.

"I can tell you that the hair on the back of my neck went up when they walked in with this a month ago, and there's been very, very strong letters fired off to the administration," the official said, Reuters reported.

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Fazl and four other Taliban members have been requested by the Afghan government and Taliban representatives for the last six years. Officials have said the detainees wouldn’t be set free and would still remain under some form of custody, although conditions haven’t been specified.

Any prisoner transfer back to Afghanistan would be a part of a trust-building effort the US hopes would lead to renewed peace talks next year with the Taliban, Fox New reported. A goal of renewed talks with the Taliban is to identify the cease-fire zones that could lead to a full peace agreement that could stop most fighting.

Further signs of the US pushing for peace talks with the Taliban is the proposed office for the organization in Qatar, which would facilitate negotiations, ABC News reported. On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai agreed to the Qatar location and the office is expected to open in the next few months.

Read more from GlobalPost: General John Allen: US military could be in Afghanistan past 2014
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/111230/us-considers-taliban-commander-transfer-back-afg