Taliban Strikes Preliminary Deal for Qatar Office

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 8:40 am (UTC-5)
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The Afghan Taliban said Tuesday it has reached a preliminary agreement to open a political office in the Gulf state of Qatar, in a move that could help facilitate peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan.

The announcement came in an e-mailed statement from Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid.

He also said the Taliban is asking for the release of prisoners held at the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba as part of the peace negotiations.

U.S. officials have recently been quoted as saying that Washington is open to negotiating a peace agreement with the Taliban, and that a possible deal could include the transfer of Taliban prisoners.

In December, Vice President Joe Biden said the Afghan Taliban are not America's enemies, and that the insurgent group did not represent a threat to the U.S. unless it continued to harbor al-Qaida terrorists.

U.S.-led forces ousted Afghanistan's Taliban government following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Those attacks were carried out by al-Qaida, which had training camps in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials at first resisted the idea of a Taliban liaison office in Qatar. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai later said his government would accept this.

The news follows months of failed efforts by Afghan and U.S. officials at starting talks with the Taliban to end the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The September assassination of President Karzai's peace envoy, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, appeared to have seriously set back efforts at achieving a peace deal.