The Afghan Taliban is ready to exchange prisoners with the United States and is “optimistic” about engaging in peace talks after it opens its office in Qatar, the militant group’s spokesman said this week.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Washington Times that “definitely both sides will exchange its prisoners as soon as the deal is done,” adding that Americans have been dealing with Taliban diplomats and Qatari lobbyists.
U.S. officials have been reluctant to discuss details of a possible prisoner exchange or their involvement in opening the Qatar office.
Asked whether the office may lead to peace talks with the U.S. someday, Mr. Ahmadi said: “We are optimistic and would definitely come up with some sort of agreement.”
U.S. officials insist that any peace talks will be Afghan-led. But direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban halted last fall after the Taliban assassinated the head of the Afghan peace council.
He will travel in support of Afghan-led reconciliation and will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, other Afghans and Qataris, as well as representatives of other regional governments, according to an official statement.
“A lot of this is quite sensitive, quite delicate. So I think we need to let Ambassador Grossman go out there and do some diplomacy and see what might result,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.
Tehrik-i-Taliban, often referred to as the Pakistan Taliban, consists of more than a dozen insurgent groups. Pakistan’s government has denied any links with militants, but its intelligence agency is widely believed to have ties with such groups.
The U.S. has placed a $10 million bounty for Mullah Omar, who as leader of the Afghan Taliban oversaw a repressive regime that hosted Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network before and after the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks..
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Kristina Wong is a national security reporter for The Washington Times, covering defense, foreign policy and intelligence affairs. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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