News / Asia

Afghan Taliban: Suspending Talks With US on Prisoner Exchange

Afghanistan map with KabulAfghanistan map with Kabul
x
Afghanistan map with Kabul
Afghanistan map with Kabul
Ayaz Gul
The Taliban says it has temporarily suspended talks with the United States on a possible prisoners’ swap, citing the “current complexity of the political situation in Afghanistan." The statement comes days after media reports quoted U.S. authorities as saying the Obama administration has renewed efforts at talks with the Afghan insurgent group to trade five senior Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  
 
This is the first direct confirmation from either side that talks have taken place in recent weeks between the United States and the Taliban on a possible exchange of prisoners before the planned withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in December.
 
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement issued Sunday says its representatives were conducting the discussions through their “political office” in Qatar, and authorities in the gulf state acted as mediators.  
 
Under the reported proposed deal, five Taliban detainees would be released from Guantanamo prison to protective custody in Qatar in exchange for U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured nearly five years ago (June 2009). The 27-year-old American soldier is the only known U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan.  He was last seen in a video released in December.
 
The Taliban spokesman says the footage was released as a “proof of life” demanded by the United States to ensure progress in the secret discussions on the possible exchange of prisoners.
 
However, he added the Taliban has decided to suspend the talks for some time “due to the political complexity of the current situation” in Afghanistan. Without elaborating, he said that “the prisoner exchange process stands delayed until further notice."
 
White House spokesman Jay Carney in a recent news conference (last Tuesday) explained the United States continues to call for and work towards Sgt. Bergdahl’s safe and immediate release.  But he stopped short of offering direct comments on reported contacts with the Taliban on the issue.  

“We are not involved in active negotiations with the Taliban," said Carney. "If negotiations were to resume, we would certainly press the case of Sergeant Bergdahl. In the meantime, we are actively engaged in an effort to see his return.  I can’t document every effort, but that includes our military, our intelligence and our diplomatic tools.”

Media reports suggest attempts to arrange the exchange of prisoners are part of wider U.S. efforts to jump-start a troubled peace and reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban that stalled in June.
 
U.S.-led coalition combat troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan in December, prompting fears the Taliban will try to capitalize on the absence of international forces. A proposed residual American military presence past 2014 to assist Afghan security forces remains uncertain because President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign a bilateral security pact with the United States.
 
The threat was highlighted by Sunday’s Taliban assault on an Afghan military outpost that killed at least 19 soldiers. The attack occurred in a province that borders Pakistan and has prompted the Afghan president to postpone his planned visit to Sri Lanka.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid