June 20, 2013

Taliban offer to free U.S. soldier in prisoner swap

By Kathy Gannon and Kay Johnson / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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This image provided by IntelCenter shows a frame grab from a video released by the Taliban containing footage of a man believed to be Bowe Bergdahl, left. A Taliban spokesman, Shaheen Suhail, in a telephone interview from the newly opened Taliban offices in Doha, Qatar, said Thursday, that they are ready to hand over Bergdahl for five of their senior operatives being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

AP

The Taliban have long refused to talk to Karzai's representatives but the opening of the office was seen as a first step toward those meetings.

Suhail said the Taliban are insistent that they want their first interlocutors to be the United States. "First we talk to the Americans about those issues concerning the Americans and us (because) for those issues implementation is only in the hands of the Americans," he said.

"We want foreign troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan," he added. "If there are troops in Afghanistan, then there will be a continuation of the war."

Suhail indicated the Taliban could approve of American trainers and advisers for the Afghan troops, saying that "of course, there is cooperation between countries in other things. We need that cooperation."

He said that once the Taliban concluded talks with the United States, they would participate in all-inclusive Afghan talks.

Suhail ruled out exclusive talks with Karzai's High Peace Council, which has been a condition of the Afghan president, who previously said he wanted talks in Doha to be restricted to his representatives and the Taliban. Instead, the Taliban would talk with all Afghan groups, Suhail said.

"After we finish the phase of talking to the Americans, then we would start the internal phase ... that would include all Afghans," he said. "Having all groups involved will guarantee peace and stability."

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