US-Taliban peace deal rejected - report
Washington - US and Taliban negotiators reached a tentative deal last month to transfer five Afghans from Guantanamo to Qatar, the Washington Post said on Friday, but it was rejected by President Hamid Karzai.
The accord would have called for five inmates from the US-run detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to be placed under house arrest in Qatar while the Taliban would have issued a public renunciation of international terrorism in a de facto break with al-Qaeda, the Post reported, citing unnamed US and European officials.
"Right now, things have stopped," a senior US administration official is quoted as saying. "Everybody is taking a deep breath."
However, talks with the Taliban insurgency, which a US-led force has been battling for a decade, are expected to resume in early 2012, the Post reported.
The tentative deal came after at least six meetings this year between US officials and a Taliban delegation headed by Tayyib Agha, an aide to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the paper wrote.
German officials also met with other Taliban representatives, it said.
The talks appeared to reflect a shift in what both Western governments and Taliban leaders are willing to accept, amid lowered ambitions in the US over what can be achieved in the 10-year-old war and setbacks on the battlefield for the insurgents.
"We knew what we wanted - a statement against international terrorism" that would amount to a public break with al-Qaeda, the official said.
There would also have been a similar statement of support for Afghanistan's constitution "and an agreement to start negotiations with the Afghan government".
The potential deal ran into problems initially from US legal advisers who cited restrictions Congress has placed on the transfer of any prisoners from Guantanamo.
The US refused to release the detainees and neither side wanted to move the inmates to an Afghan prison. Qatar, which had already agreed to the opening of a Taliban office, said it would supervise them under house arrest.
But the Afghan president rejected the deal at the last minute, the paper said.
Karzai had been "fully briefed" throughout the talks, but his stance had remained unclear.
Officials told the Post Karzai had failed to build political support at home among key Afghan figures, including ethnic Tajiks and other forces in the country's north.
The US launched an invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 2001 attacks over the Taliban's alliance with al-Qaeda.
US-led forces quickly toppled the Taliban from power but have since waged a counter-insurgency campaign against the hard-line Islamists that now involves roughly 140 000 Nato-led forces, including more than 90 000 American troops.