ISLAMABAD - The peace dialogue between the US and Taliban in Qatar has been stalled by the US’ failure to transfer five Taliban detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Qatar and the Obama administration is engaged in intense efforts to revive the initial talks before their altogether collapse.
The Taliban have been demanding the release and transfer of five of its main leaders detained by the US at Guantanamo Bay, which include Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Mohammad Nabi Omari and Abdul Haq Wasiq.
Taliban representatives Tayyab Agha, Shahabuddin and Sohail Shaheen – all close confidants of Taliban supreme commander Mullah Omar and who are now open to talks with the US in Qatar – have been demanding the release of Taliban prisoners, and sources close to Taliban cadres claim that per Taliban understanding with the Obama administration, the five detainees should have been transferred to Qatar a month ago.
“However, the talks between the US and Taliban, which were in very initial stages and focused only on the prisoner issue, have been left stalled as a result of the delay on part of US authorities to set free the five Taliban detainees,” the source said, seeking anonymity. “The US is making hectic efforts to revive the talks,” he said.
The source said the Taliban would have to release from their detention a US soldier that they had been holding in Afghanistan in exchange for winning freedom for their top five leaders.
“The release of Taliban leaders is very important as it will show how serious the US is for talks with the Taliban on more important issues, such as the future Afghan government and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan,” he said.
A diplomatic source also confirmed the hindrances in talks, but said the Taliban were happy that at least they had been able to set up an office in Qatar and had taken it as the start of their formal international recognition as one of the major forces in Afghanistan.
“The reports that we receive indicate that the Taliban, with their morale boosted by an office in Qatar for peace talks with the US, are now eyeing Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the next venues for their offices,” he said.
He added that the Taliban had established contacts with two important Arab countries to have their offices opened on their soil and everything now depended on the success of those talks.
“Also, it is to be seen how the US reacts to the opening of more Taliban offices. Whether it supports or tries to block any such move will be an important factor,” he said.