Afghan Taliban to open Qatar office for peace talks

KABUL – The Taliban say they have reached a preliminary agreement to set up a political office, possibly in Qatar, as part of Western plans to end the war, according to the BBC. A statement confirmed the move, which has been backed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Both the US and Germany have been pushing for such a representation in an effort to kick-start negotiations. The White House said it welcomed “any step along the road” towards reconciliation. President Barack Obama “has made clear that we would support and participate in Afghan-led reconciliation efforts”, said spokesman Jay Carney. But he added that reconciliation would only come if the Taliban renounced violence, broke with al-Qaeda and abided by the Afghan constitution.

The move was also welcomed by the Afghan High Peace Council, which is seeking a negotiated end to the war, as “a gesture of good faith”.

But it still remains unclear if the insurgents, who claim to be winning the war, are prepared to engage in truly meaningful peace talks – and whether these could take place while international forces continue to kill Taliban fighters and commanders.

The Taliban statement added that they wanted prisoners released from the US-run detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, as part of a deal. But the statement fails to mention the Afghan government, which the Taliban regards as a puppet regime.

Karzai appeared to endorse the talks between the US and the Taliban.  “Afghanistan, to save the country from war, conspiracies, the killing of innocent Afghans and to reach peace, agrees with the talks between United States of America and Taliban that will end up in establishing an office for Taliban in Qatar,” Karzai said in a palace statement, quoted by CNN.

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