The Secretary of State dispelled suggestions that talks were initiated with the Taliban to release prisoners from Guantanmo Bay. Taliban officials have publicly proposed a prisoner exchange of a captured U.S. soldier for five Taliban detainees. The U.S. had considered preliminary talks before all efforts stalled.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been identified in photos exhibited by the Taliban as the captured soldier. His family members have been lobbying congressional members and government officials for his return to the United States. Public appeal has been growing because of the recent revelations of proposed talks with the Taliban for his release.
Secretary of State John Kerry, along with Ambassador Jim Dobbins met with Qatari Prime Minister Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani to confer on stalled U.S.-Taliban talks. It was the second of such meetings in a 24 hour period since the arrival of U.S. officials to the region.
The prospects of peace negotiations were hampered upon the Taliban’s highly publicized Doha political office opening ceremony. During the ceremony the Taliban flew their old government flag promoting the inference of a sovereign nation. Kerry dispelled any rumors of secret talks with the Taliban which could have been used to validate their actions.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzi quickly ended further discussion concerning peace talks.
“If there is not a decision to move forward by the Taliban in short order, then we may have to consider whether or not the office has to be closed,” said Kerry during a joint press conference with Qatari’s prime minister.
Critics were disgruntled by Qataris naivety in being manipulated by the Taliban regarding the political office incident. Kerry did not comment on Qatari officials’ failure to effectively handle the situation. He did say the terms of the office opening were established but were not adhered to as planned.
The Qataris, after complaints from Secretary Kerry and President Karzai, forced the Taliban to remove all office identifications that identified it as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The incident gravely damaged any trust the perspective negotiating parties had garnered among them.
“We need to see if we can get back on track…I don’t know whether that’s possible or not,” Kerry told a news conference in Qatar.
The Taliban had been pushed out of power in Afghanistan by the U.S. invasion after Al Qaeda attacks on September, 2011. They have since begun insurgency operations to regain power in the region.
The regime had refused any re-conciliatory efforts with the current Afghan government until recent negotiation efforts. They have often referred to the current Afghanistan administration under President Karzai as a puppet government for the West.
The United States wants the return of the only know prisoner of the conflict, Sergeant Bowe Berghal. However when questioned on the issue of prisoner exchange, “it’s just not where the process is,” said Kerry.
Kerry has since departed Doha leaving behind Ambassador Jim Dobbins, the Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He made it clear no initial communications have started concerning secret exchange talks with the Taliban.
By Thomas Barr