Negotiations with the Taliban - Today's Q's for O's WH - 1/12/2012

CARNEY: Jake, welcome back.

TAPPER: Thank you.

CARNEY: Do you have a question for me?

TAPPER: I do. I'd love to ask about the talks with the Taliban. And I understand that you're probably restricted in what you can talk about, but apparently, the administration later last evening became a little bit more willing to talk about what's going on. I thought in light of that, you could maybe share what is the goal here, how does - how do talks with the Taliban jive with the continuing military effort against the Taliban, and what would the overall message be to soldiers who - or families of soldiers who - I understand that you make peace with your enemy and not with your friends, but what would the message be about that such reconciliation?

CARNEY: Well, I think those are all very good questions. The - as you know, the administration's position has been that - for a long time that we would support and participate in Afghan-led reconciliation initiatives as one key part of our overall strategy.

As you say, you have to have these - you have to have a political solution at some point, and a political settlement is essential here. And - but it is - it is - coexists with our military campaign. It is in fact our military campaign that has set the conditions for initial reconciliation discussions that we hope will begin taking place. But to be clear, we will continue to energetically prosecute the military campaign as we pursue this political effort.

And our role in this is to build confidence-building measures, to bring about a set of confidence-building measures, that would allow both Afghan parties - the government and the Taliban - to demonstrate their seriousness in pursuing the process and eventually begin negotiating. But it is - the reconciliation process has to be between the Afghan government and the Taliban. We are helping facilitate that, but we are supporting an Afghan-led process.

TAPPER: And the message to the families or the troops that have served there?

CARNEY: The service that our men and women in uniform, as well as our civilians, have provided in Afghanistan has been exemplary. And the sacrifice has been enormous. And we - the whole point of the president's strategy is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al-Qaida - al-Qaida being the reason why we sent forces to Afghanistan in the first place - and to create breathing room, if you will, space for the Afghan government to be able to build up Afghan forces so that Afghan forces can take the security lead - which, as enunciated in Lisbon, will happen by the end of 2014 - and ultimately for that country to succeed in the process of reconciliation that allows for peace in that very troubled land.

But reconciliation, as you know, is contingent upon some very important criteria, including, you know, laying down arms; renouncing al-Qaida; abiding by the Afghan constitution, including its provisions for minority rights and women's rights. So this is not - these are not - it is not without conditions that this reconciliation process would take place.

TAPPER: And lastly - I'm sorry, but - but the U.S. possible confidence - the role that the U.S. might play in confidence-building measures may be the release of five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo. I know that no decision has been made, but it's certainly a possibility. What can you tell the American people about these five Taliban and why the U.S. feels it's OK - hypothetically, because it is being discussed, - but why it might be acceptable to release them to the Afghan government or to release them to the Taliban?

CARNEY: Well, a couple of points. One, as you point out, we have not decided to transfer any Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay. Two, we're not in a - in a position to discuss ongoing deliberations or individual detainees, but our goal of closing Guantanamo is well-established and widely understood. In general, any decision to transfer a detainee from Guantanamo would be undertaken in accordance with U.S. law and in consultation with Congress.

The process of transferring detainees out of Guantanamo Bay has been ongoing - this is broadly and not specific to your question - but has been ongoing for a long time and obviously predates this administration. And each transfer is done - again, undertaken in accordance with U.S. law and in consultation with the Congress.

TAPPER: Thank you.

-Jake Tapper

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