US-Taliban talks were making headway

The Associated Press reports:

Direct U.S. talks with the Taliban had evolved to a substantive negotiation before Afghan officials, nervous that the secret and independent talks would undercut President Hamid Karzai, scuttled them, Afghan and U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

Featured prominently in the talks was the whereabouts and eventual release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, who was captured more than two years ago in eastern Afghanistan, according to a senior Western diplomat in the region and a childhood friend of the Taliban negotiator, Tayyab Aga.

The U.S. negotiators asked Aga what could be done to gain Bergdahl’s release. The discussion did not get into specifics but Aga discussed the release of Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field.

Published reports about the clandestine meetings ended the talks abruptly, and sent Aga into hiding.

Collapse of the direct talks between Aga and U.S. officials probably spoiled the best chance yet at reaching Mullah Mohammed Omar, considered the linchpin to ending the Taliban fight against the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan. The contacts were preliminary but had begun to bear fruit, Afghan and U.S. officials said.

Perhaps most importantly they offered the tantalizing prospect of a brokered agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban — one that would allow the larger reconciliation of the Taliban into Afghanistan political life to move forward. The United States has not committed to any such deal, but the Taliban wants security assurances from Washington.

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