Taliban still not ready to talk to US sans prisoners’ release


As the US urges its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to facilitate the resumption of stalled peace dialogue with the Taliban in Qatar, the Taliban leadership has made it clear that they would not become part of any fresh negotiations unless and until their five leaders detained by the US at Guantanamo Bay prison were set free.
The demand for freedom of the five Taliban leaders is not a new one, as the Taliban had come up with the same condition before the last round of talks in Doha between Mullah Omar-led Afghan insurgents and US officials, which was also the first formal contact between the two parties.
The US had in fact agreed to accept that demand and had conveyed to the Taliban that it would hand over the detainees to Qatari authorities in return for the release of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, who is the only American soldier known to be held by the Taliban insurgents. The US, however, later, showed reluctance to hand over the Taliban detainees to Qatar, a move that led to the suspension of peace dialogue with the Taliban in March.
The US is now trying to impress upon Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to help it restart the negotiations with the Taliban to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan and make the goal of US/NATO exit from the war-torn country by 2014 achievable. “The Taliban have, however, conveyed afresh to the United States that without the release of their leaders from Guantanamo Bay prison, there can’t be any talks with the US negotiators,” a diplomatic source said, seeking anonymity. He said any progress on the resumption of US and Taliban talks in the near future seemed unlikely, as the Obama administration was not in favor of releasing the Taliban before the presidential election in November 2012.
“It seems that any talks between the US and Taliban would happen next year and that too if the Taliban detainees are handed over to Qatar,” he said. Another, Pakistani diplomat said it was true that the US had been seeking help of Pakistan and other friendly states for the resumption of talks with the Taliban, but it seemed that American efforts were not acceptable to the Taliban leaders unless and until the Taliban prisoners were released. He said another development that could cast a negative impact on the US efforts to restart negotiations with the Taliban was the likely designation of ‘Haqqani network’ as a terrorist group by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Congress has already set a deadline of September 9 for the purpose.


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