Kabul, Afghanistan: Five members of the Afghan Taliban who were freed from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for captured US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have joined the insurgent group’s political office in Qatar, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
They will now be among Taliban representatives negotiating for peace in Afghanistan, a sign some negotiators in Kabul say indicates the Taliban’s desire for a peace pact.
Others fear the five, all of whom were close to the insurgent group’s founder and hard-line leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, bring with them the same ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam that characterised the group’s five-year rule that ended in 2001 with the US-led invasion.
Taliban officials reported meeting with US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar earlier this month, calling the exchange preliminary but pivotal. Washington neither confirmed nor denied the meeting, but Khalilzad was in Qatar at the time.
A Taliban official familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press that talks ended with an agreement to meet again. Key among the Taliban’s requests was recognition of their Qatar office, said the official, who spoke on condition he not be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.