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US, Taliban talks on prisoner swap falter

Reuters TV

A Taliban-affliated website recently posted video of this man who said he was Bowe Bergdahl, the only U.S. soldier held by the Taliban

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Talks between the Afghan Taliban and the United States in Qatar almost failed as the Taliban leadership reportedly refused to accept the U.S. demand of a ceasefire before  swapping prisoners.

Sources in the Afghan Taliban said the Taliban had set up an office in Qatar hoping that it would help in a prisoners' swap, especially for their five top commanders held at the Guantanamo Bay base since 2002.

The Taliban sources said their talks with the U.S. had been going for the past few years in exchange for an American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, captured by Taliban militants in Afghanistan's Paktika province in June 2009, bordering Pakistan's South Waziristan. 

Maulvi Sangeen, a senior commander of the powerful Haqqani terror network, had initially claimed responsibility for kidnapping the U.S. soldier.

The Taliban sources said U.S. officials had earlier promised them they would exchange prisoners and later start peace talks.

However, according to the sources, the U.S. demanded that the Taliban announce a ceasefire in Afghanistan before any prisoner swap, which they said their central leadership had turned down.

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"Our stance is the same. We will announce a ceasefire when the foreign forces start their withdrawal from Afghanistan," a Taliban source said.

The Afghan Taliban leadership is also worried about the reaction from their field commanders and fighters if a ceasefire were announced without getting anything to show in exchange.

Some members of the 140-strong Taliban delegation that went to Qatar had started leaving after no breakthrough was seen in talks with the U.S.