June 20, 2013

Taliban proposes swapping U.S. soldier for five at Guantanamo

By 
KATHY GANNON and KAY JOHNSON / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

This frame grab from a video released by the Taliban is believed to show U.S. Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, who has been held captive since 2009.

2010 Associated Press File Photo / IntelCenter

A decision on whether to restart the U.S. security agreement talks would be made after those assurances, he added, referring further questions to the foreign ministry.

On Thursday, the "Islamic Emirate" nameplate had been removed from the Taliban office. The flagpole inside the compound was apparently shortened and the Taliban flag – dark Quranic script on a white background — was still flying but not visible from the street. Journalists gathered at the office shot images of the flag through the gaps in the walls.

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."

Gannon reported from Islamabad, Pakistan. Associated Press writers John Miller in Hailey, Idaho, Brian Murphy in Dubai and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

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