US-Taliban Talks Stumble

Afghan fighters oppose cease-fire proposed by Washington
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 29, 2012 2:32 PM CST
Updated Jan 29, 2012 4:49 PM CST
Marc Grossman the special US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, speaks in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012.   (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

(Newser) Long-rumored talks between the US and Taliban officials just got started and are already faltering, MSNBC reports. Meeting in Qatar, Taliban representatives balked today at Washington's demand for a cease-fire before negotiating a prisoner swap. "Our stance is the same. We will announce a cease-fire when the foreign forces start their withdrawal from Afghanistan," said a Taliban source. The New York Times reported earlier that the US had kicked off talks by offering the possible release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

The Qatar meetings are also rife with regional subplots. Pakistan seemed to reverse its earlier opposition by allowing Taliban reps to travel across its borders. Afghanistan also stopped grumbling, but now plans to jump-start its own talks with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia, the BBC reports. The Taliban is changing course too, apparently recognizing President Karzai's government for the first time. But the Taliban is "confused by the lack of coherence" between Kabul and the international community, one analyst says, and might "think there's some kind of divide-and-rule going on." (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)

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