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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy