Lawmakers cool on Taliban prisoner swap

Senators from both parties said they were either opposed to a prisoner exchange outright, or that it should only be done as part of the final negotiations.

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“I personally don’t think that we negotiate under those lines,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “For me, it wouldn’t be acceptable.”

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he was opposed to any swaps prior to the talks beginning.

“They have to be a part of the negotiations,” Levin said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was Levin’s top Republican counterpart on the committee until this year, said he would only agree with an exchange as part of a final cease-fire agreement.

“That’s done at the completion of an agreement,” McCain said. “I’m opposed now.”

Other Republicans have raised concerns with holding any negotiations with the Taliban while the U.S. is still fighting them.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he has always been opposed to making a deal on a prisoner exchange. “That’s not the way we deal with terrorists,” he said Thursday.

The negotiations with the Taliban got off to a troubling start this week after Afghan President Hamid Karzai pulled out of the talks when the Taliban called themselves the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” at their new Doha office, the name of the previous Taliban government in Afghanistan.