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Taliban said to reject cease-fire demand

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Taliban said to reject cease-fire demand
Cpl. William Cox, an armorer at the Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest, and a native of Amory, Miss., provides security as an MV-22 Osprey lands in Zaranj, Nimroz province, Afghanistan on December 30, 2011. UPI/Bryan Nygaard/Marines | License Photo

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The Taliban have refused to agree to a U.S. demand for a cease-fire in Afghanistan before there can be a prisoner exchange, sources told NBC News.

"Our stance is the same. We will announce a cease-fire when the foreign forces start their withdrawal from Afghanistan," a Taliban source told the U.S. network.

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Taliban sources said the Islamic militant group had set up an office in Qatar and hoped that doing so would help lead to a prisoner swap, particularly for the top five Taliban commanders held at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002.

The Taliban sources said they had been involved in talks with the United States in the past few years on the exchange, which they said would also result in the release of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by Taliban militants in June 2009 in Afghanistan's Paktika province.

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NBC reported the Taliban sources said U.S. officials had promised to exchange prisoners and later begin peace talks.

But the sources said the Unites States insisted the Taliban announce a cease-fire in Afghanistan before any prisoner swap and the Taliban had refused to do so.

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The Taliban are concerned about how field commanders and fighters would view announcing a cease-fire without having anything in exchange to show for it.

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NBC said some of the 140 members of the Taliban delegation who went to Qatar had started leaving after the talks failed to produce an agreement.

The fundamentalist Taliban had ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 before being overthrown and had previously refused to recognize the government of President Hamid Karzai, but now appear interested in third-party talks and locations, the BBC said.

The talks in Qatar were arranged mainly by the United States and Qatar, which angered Karzai, who alleged his government had been marginalized, The New York Times reported.

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There has been widespread speculation the U.S. focus would be on negotiating the return of three of its citizens being held by the Taliban.

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