That’s how USA Today is fronting this story. But if you actually read the text, it doesn’t sound like there has been an actual breakthrough in the negotiations. It sounds more like the headline is meant to move the ball in the Taliban’s preferred direction.
A Taliban leader taking part in hostage negotiations for the lives of 21 South Koreans said Saturday that the hostages would “definitely” be released and possibly as soon as “today or tomorrow.”
Mullah Qari Bashir said that face-to-face negotiations with four Korean officials that began Friday were going well and that the Taliban were sticking with their original demand — that 21 Taliban prisoners be released from prisons in Afghanistan.
“God willing the government (of Afghanistan) and the government of Korea will accept this,” Bashir said outside the Afghan Red Cross office in Ghazni. “Definitely these people will be released. God willing our friends (Taliban militants in prison) will be released.”
Asked when the Koreans might be freed, he said: “Hopefully today or tomorrow.”
“I’m very optimistic. The negotiations are continuing on a positive track,” Bashir said.
The South Koreans don’t agree.
“A quick release is a good thing but we don’t see that the possibility of the quick release is high,” a South Korean official in Seoul told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
Four South Korean officials and two top Taliban leaders met in person Saturday for a second round of talks over the fate of the 21 members of a church group held hostage for three weeks.
The Taliban is looking for a prisoner swap or a ransom, or both if they can get it. So nothing much seems to have changed, despite the USAT headline.