Afghan Leader Agrees to Taliban Talks and Office in Qatar

Posted January 4th, 2012 at 4:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday welcomed negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the United States, as well as the Islamist insurgent group's plans to open an office in the Gulf state of Qatar.

Mr. Karzai issued a statement saying he agrees with negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S. that would lead to the establishment of a Taliban office in Qatar. The statement said the talks could save the country from “conflict, conspiracies and the killing of innocent people.”

In an e-mail statement Tuesday, the Afghan Taliban said it had reached an “initial agreement” to set up its first political overseas office in Qatar. The group also called for the release of prisoners held at the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

The statement said the office in Qatar would help the group “reach an understanding with the international community.”

The United States said Tuesday the Taliban move “could play a positive role in ending the war in Afghanistan.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said “President Barack Obama has made clear that Washington would support and participate in Afghan-led reconciliation efforts on condition that the Taliban breaks from al-Qaida, abandons violence, and abides by the Afghan constitution.”

“As far as releasing Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo,” Carney said “the U.S. government is not in a position to discuss ongoing deliberations or individual detainees. He added that “the U.S. goal of closing Guantanamo is well established and widely understood.”

Media reports have quoted U.S. officials 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.

Afghan officials originally resisted the idea of a Taliban liaison office in Qatar, and the assassination of President Hamid Karzai's peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani in September appeared to seriously set back efforts to reach a peace deal.

Presently, just one NATO soldier is believed to be in Taliban captivity — 25-year-old U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who disappeared from his base in eastern Paktika province on June 30, 2009.