The Taliban have said they are ready to hand over the only known American prisoner of war in the Afghanistan conflict, in exchange for the release of five senior operatives held at Guantanamo Bay.
Speaking from the group's newly-opened offices in Qatari capital Doha, Shaheen Suhail, a senior spokesman for the Taliban, said the releases were an essential precursor to any peace talks with the US.
“First has to be the release of detainees,” he told Associated Press. “Yes. It would be an exchange. Then, step by step, we want to build bridges of confidence to go forward.”
The statement comes after peace negotiations between the US, the Taliban, and Afghani delegates were announced on Tuesday. The plans quickly descended into disarray over diplomatic disagreements and their future now looks uncertain.
The US prisoner-of-war in question, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, 27, from Hailey, Idaho, has been held captive since 2009 after going missing from his base in Afghanistan. His whereabouts are not known, but it is believed he is being held in Pakistan.
Berghdal’s father said last year that he felt like his son’s captivity was “not being addressed".
Washington is making concerted efforts to get the peace talks back on track, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling Afghani President Hamad Karzai twice in the 24 hours following relations breaking down. The US see the negotiations, which Pakistan would play an outside role in, as central to the ending of the Afghanistan war and the removal of US troops.