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Afghan Taliban offers to swap captive U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl for 5 Guantanamo detainees

Updated at 10:32 a.m. Eastern

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan The Afghan Taliban say they are ready to hand over a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their senior operatives being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

A Taliban spokesman, Shaheen Suhail, said U.S. Army Spc. Bowe Bergdahl "is as far as I know in good condition."

Suhail spoke in an exclusive telephone interview with The Associated Press from the newly opened Taliban offices in Doha, Qatar.

Bergdahl disappeared in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.

He spoke as the U.S. is scrambling to save talks with the Taliban after angry complaints from President Hamid Karzai.

The prisoner exchange is the first item on the Taliban's agenda before even opening peace talks, said Suhail, who is a top Taliban figure and served as first secretary at the Afghan Embassy in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad before the Taliban government's ouster in 2001.

Suhail said "first has to be the release of detainees," and after that, the Taliban "want to build bridges of confidence."

He offered no details on Bergdahl's current whereabouts.

Timothy Marsano, the public affairs officer for the Idaho National Guard who has also served as a spokesman for Bergdahl's family, told CBS News on Thursday the family was "encouraged by the hopeful new development."

Marsano said the family learned earlier in the week that negotiations aimed at securing Sgt. Bergdahl's release had resumed, but he would not elaborate.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected in Doha ahead of Saturday's conference on the Syrian civil war.

While in Qatar, Kerry is also expected to meet with the Taliban but timing was unclear. On Wednesday in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. had "never confirmed" any specific meeting schedule with Taliban representatives in Doha.

Prospective peace talks are also still in question, especially after Afghan President Hamid Karzai became infuriated by the Taliban's move to cast their new office in Doha as a rival embassy.

The Taliban held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday in which they hoisted their flag and a banner with the name they used while in power more than a decade ago: "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." Later, the Taliban replaced the sign to read simply: Political office of the Taliban.

At the ceremony, the Taliban welcomed dialogue with Washington but said their fighters would not stop fighting. Hours later, the group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Bagram Air Base outside the Afghan capital, Kabul, that killed four American service members.

Karzai on Wednesday announced his government is out of the peace talks, apparently angered by the way Kabul had been sidelined in the U.S.-Taliban bid for rapprochement.

The Afghan president also suspended negotiations with the United States on a bilateral security agreement that would cover American troops who will remain behind after the final withdrawal of NATO combat troops at the end of 2014.

Suhail said the Taliban are insistent that they want their first interlocutors to be the United States. "First we talk to the Americans about those issues concerning the Americans and us (because) for those issues implementation is only in the hands of the Americans," he said.

"We want foreign troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan," he added. "If there are troops in Afghanistan then there will be a continuation of the war."

Suhail indicated the Taliban could approve of American trainers and advisers for the Afghan troops, saying that "of course, there is cooperation between countries in other things. We need that cooperation."

He said that once the Taliban concluded talks with the United States, they would participate in all-inclusive Afghan talks.

Suhail ruled out exclusive talks with Karzai's High Peace Council, which has been a condition of the Afghan president who previously said he wanted talks in Doha to be restricted to his representatives and the Taliban. Instead, the Taliban would talk to all Afghan groups, Suhail said.

"After we finish the phase of talking to the Americans, then we would start the internal phase ... that would include all Afghans," he said. "Having all groups involved will guarantee peace and stability."

On Thursday, Karzai's government appeared to throw another spanner into the mix, demanding that Pakistan release imprisoned Afghan Taliban leaders.

"It is a good time to release these Taliban leaders jailed in Pakistan, and then the Afghan High Peace Council together with them will begin talks with the Taliban inside Afghanistan or in Qatar," a statement from the foreign ministry in Kabul said.

It wasn't clear, however, whether the Taliban in Pakistani custody would be willing to participate in peace talks as members of Karzai's council. Pakistan last year and earlier this year released dozens of Taliban prisoners, most of whom returned to the ranks of the Taliban.

The Afghan government has repeatedly sought the release of the Taliban's former No. 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, picked up by Pakistan in 2010 on a CIA tip.

Pakistan has so far refused, and two senior U.S. officials told the AP that the U.S. has asked Pakistan not to release Baradar or if he is released, to give them advance notice so they could monitor his movements. The two officials, both knowledgeable of the process, spoke earlier this year, on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

The reconciliation process with the Taliban has been a long and bumpy one that began nearly two years ago when the U.S. opened secret talks that were later scuttled by Karzai when he learned of them.

It was then that the U.S. and Taliban discussed prisoner exchanges and for a brief time it appeared that the five Guantanamo Bay prisoners would be released and sent to Doha to help further the peace process. But Karzai stepped in again and demanded they be returned to Afghanistan over Taliban objections.

Since then, the U.S. has been trying to jumpstart peace talks and the Taliban have made small gestures including an offer to share power. The Taliban have also attended several international conferences and held meetings with representatives of about 30 countries.

If the Taliban hold talks with Kerry in the next few days, they will be the first U.S.-Taliban talks in nearly 1 ½ years.

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