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'New opening' for US-Taleban talks possible: US defence chief Chuck Hagel

Published on Jun 1, 2014 10:20 PM
United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to members of the military during his visit to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on June 1, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed hope Sunday the release of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl would lead to direct US talks with the Taleban, as the US defended its decision to transfer five Taleban detainees to Qatar in a prisoner swop.

"It could, it might and we hope it will present an opening," Mr Hagel said in an interview from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with NBC's Meet The Press programme.

Mr Hagel noted that the United States had engaged in talks with the Taleban before, until they were broken off in 2012, and that it strongly supported an Afghan-led effort to reach a peace agreement with the Taleban. "So maybe this will be a new opening that can produce an agreement," he said.

Sgt Bergdahl, 28, was released Saturday near the Afghan-Pakistani border after nearly five years in Taleban captivity, in a surprise development that came as the United States days is winding down its 13-year intervention in Afghanistan.

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