KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay.
The idea of releasing the Taliban prisoners has been controversial. U.S. negotiators fear they might simply return to the battlefield, and Karzai once scuttled a similar deal partly because he thought the Americans were usurping his authority.
The proposal to trade Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban detainees was made by senior Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail in response to a question during a phone interview with the Associated Press from the militants' newly opened political office in Doha, Qatar.
The Obama administration was noncommittal about the proposal.
"We've been very clear on our feelings about Sgt. Bergdahl and the need for him to be released," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "We have not made a decision to ... transfer any Taliban detainees."
Prospective peace talks were thrown into question Wednesday when Karzai became infuriated by the Taliban's move to cast its new office in Doha as a rival embassy.
The Afghan president also suspended negotiations with the United States on a bilateral security agreement that would cover American troops who will remain after the final withdrawal of NATO combat troops in 2014.
That left U.S. officials scrambling to save the talks, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Karzai by phone.
Karzai spokesman Fayeq Wahidi said the Afghan president is willing to join peace talks with the Taliban if the U.S. follows through with promises he said Kerry made, including that the Taliban flag and a nameplate with their former regime's name be removed.
On Thursday, the "Islamic Emirate" nameplate was gone.