Taliban peace accord back on with talk of US hostage release

Terror group has confirmed it’s readiness to free US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held captive since 2009

A possible prisoner exchange – and the shortening of a flagpole – were at the heart of urgent efforts to rescue the first direct peace talks for Afghanistan that were announced by the United States on Tuesday, only to be sabotaged by an angered President Hamid Karzai 24 hours later.

Officials with the Taliban confirmed the group’s readiness to free US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held captive since 2009, in exchange for the release of five of its senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The Taliban said the exchange would be seen as the first step on the road to a peace accord.

Most of the focus remained last night on Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the Taliban have been allowed to open an office as their initial base to engage in peace talks. It was when the group adorned the office with a nameplate and flag declaring it the “Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” – the name adopted by the Taliban before it was ousted from power in 2001 – that Kabul cried foul.

After pressure from both the Qatari government and the US, the Taliban changed the nameplate. The Taliban flag had been taken down and run up again but on a shortened flagpole not visible from the street. The deputy US ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Rosemary DiCarlo, told Security Council members that “Qatar has clarified that the name of the office is the Political Office of the Afghan Taliban”. The office, she said, “must not be treated as, or represent itself as, an embassy”.

From Kabul, meanwhile, came signs of a thaw in the position of President Karzai. Officials said US Secretary of State John Kerry had telephoned him to reassure him that the designation of the Doha office would be clarified and promised a formal letter of support for his government. “We would see no problem in entering into talks with the Taliban in Qatar [if those pledges are met],” a Karzai spokesman said.

Meanwhile, in Hailey, Idaho, home to the missing American soldier, hopes were raised that he may soon come home. A spokesman for his parents, Bob and Jahni Bergdahl, said they were cautiously optimistic. “They are aware of this most recent development in Qatar and the possibility of talks starting that may include negotiations for the release of their son,” Colonel Tim Marsano, of the Idaho National Guard, said. “And they’re encouraged by this new development.”

The importance to the Taliban of the putative swap was clear. “First has to be the release of detainees,” a senior Taliban representative in Doha, Shaheen Suhail, told the Associated Press when asked about Bergdahl. “Yes. It would be an exchange. Then step by step, we want to build bridges of confidence to go forward.”

The men the Taliban hope to see released by the US include Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former Taliban governor of Herat, and Mullah Mohammed Fazl, a former top Taliban military commander.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road