PESHAWAR, Pakistan - The Afghan Taliban say they have suspended talks that the United States reportedly had hoped would result in the return of prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“The latest round of talks with U.S. in Qatar was suspended on the directive of our spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar,” a senior Taliban commander told NBC News by telephone from Afghanistan on Sunday. “The rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan is the key factor behind suspension of negotiations.”
He did not elaborate on what was meant by the rapidly changing situation in the country, which is due to see presidential elections in April and the draw-down of most foreign troops by the end of the year.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the Obama administration was taking steps it hoped could lead to a resumption of peace talks to end the conflict and a proposed swap of Taliban detainees in Guantanamo Bay in return for Bergdahl.
Bergdahl has been held prisoner since going missing from an American base in Afghanistan in 2009.
Robert Hilton, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, would not comment on the Taliban statement, but called for Bergdahl's release and said that he had already been gone too long.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, also issued a statement to the media confirming suspending talks with U.S.
“We have been holding their soldier Bowe Bergdahl since 2009 and they are having our five top commanders in custody since 2002,” the Taliban commander who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We wanted to exchange our prisoners but our supreme leader asked us to stop it.”
NBC News' Akbar Shinwari contributed to this report.