Taliban: We'll Free Only US POW in Afghanistan If...

...it gets 5 Taliban operatives held at Gitmo in return

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 20, 2013 7:01 AM CDT | Updated Jun 20, 2013 7:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Taliban says it's willing to free the only US prisoner of war in Afghanistan—if the US will hand over five top Taliban operatives held at Guantanamo Bay. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (who disappeared on June 30, 2009) "is, as far as I know, in good condition," a Taliban spokesman tells the AP in a phone interview. He explains that the group, which this week opened a political office in Doha, Qatar, is calling for the prisoner exchange to occur before any peace talks go ahead. "First has to be the release of detainees," the spokesman says. "Then step by step, we want to build bridges of confidence to go forward."

But there's another hurdle: Afghan president Hamid Karzai is fuming over what the Taliban is painting as an embassy of its own, and the fragile situation yesterday prompted the US to hold off on its talks, which were supposed to begin this week. The Guardian reports that one particular sticking point was the Taliban office's name: a sign identified it as the "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." The US, Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Qatar had previously agreed to call it the "Political Office of the Afghan Taliban." That reportedly prompted Karzai to suspend separate security talks with the US, the Guardian reports; the sign will be replaced, reports the BBC.

This file image provided by IntelCenter on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010 shows a frame grab from a video released by the Taliban containing footage of a man believed to be Bowe Bergdahl, left.   (AP Photo/IntelCenter, File)
An image of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, who is being held captive in Afghanistan, is worn by an audience member at a rally for POW/MIA awareness in Washington, May 27, 2012.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
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