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Thu 5 Jan 2012 11:35 AM

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Qatar deal raises hopes for US soldier held by Taliban

Family of captured soldier hope mooted peace talks with US will secure his freedom

Qatar deal raises hopes for US soldier held by Taliban
US soldier Bowe Bergdahl was captured in June 2009

The
family of a US soldier held captive by the Taliban for over two years said on
Wednesday they were optimistic about the possibility of talks between the
Afghan insurgent group and countries including the United States.

They expressed
hope that Bowe Bergdahl would be freed "as soon as possible" in a
statement issued a day after the Taliban said they had reached a preliminary
agreement to set up a political office in the Gulf Arab country of Qatar.

"We
are optimistic about the possibility of diplomatic discussions between Taliban
officials and government officials from other nations, including the United
States," the family said in a statement released through the Idaho
National Guard.

"Our
only son, Bowe Bergdahl, has been held captive for two and a half years. We
hope he will be released as soon as possible. We know that serious discussions
among diplomats are the most likely way to make this happen, and for Bowe to be
returned safely to us, his family," it added.

Bergdahl,
of Hailey, Idaho, was a member of the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute
Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan when he went missing in June 2009. Three days
later, the US military declared him captured by the Taliban.

In May
2011, Robert Bergdahl posted an online appeal asking the government of Pakistan
and its armed forces to help free his son. In July, the NATO security force in
Afghanistan said US and NATO forces had made bringing Bergdahl home a top
priority.

The
Afghan Taliban announced a preliminary deal on Tuesday to set up a political
office in Qatar, which could lead to diplomatic talks, and asked for the
release of prisoners held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The
Qatar office is seen by Western and Afghan officials as a crucial step to
moving forward with secretive attempts to reach a negotiated end to a decade of
war. The Taliban statement pointedly made no mention of the Kabul government,
set up after a US-led invasion in 2001 ousted the Taliban from power.

Afghan
President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday that Afghanistan agreed with US
efforts to talk with the Taliban, and the plan to open an office in Qatar,
because they could prevent further conflict and the deaths of innocent
civilians.

The
branch of the Taliban believed to be holding Bergdahl operates on the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border and may be based in tribal lands in Pakistan,
according to reports by the US Department of Defence.