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Afghanistan agrees to Qatar office for Taliban

News18

Updated: January 5, 2012, 1:53 AM IST
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Afghanistan agrees to Qatar office for Taliban
The Afghan Taliban have also asked for the release of prisoners held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Kabul: President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday Afghanistan agrees with US efforts to talk with the Taliban, and the insurgent group's plan to open an office in Qatar, because they could prevent further conflict and the deaths of innocent civilians.

The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday they had reached a preliminary agreement to set up a political office in the Gulf nation of Qatar and asked for the release of prisoners held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The 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.

Karzai and US officials have repeatedly said any peace process must be Afghan-led and the president has been angered in the past when he felt excluded by foreign efforts to set up some kind of negotiations.

However, after a 24-hour delay in responding to the announcement, Karzai came out in favour of the move.

"Afghanistan agrees with the negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, which will lead to the establishment of an office in Qatar," Karzai's office said in a statement.

The talks could save Afghanistan from "conflict, conspiracy and the killings of innocent people", the statement said.

Senior US officials told Reuters last month that, after 10 months, talks with the Taliban had reached a critical juncture and they would soon know if a breakthrough was possible.

As part of the accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy, the United States is considering the transfer of several high-profile Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay into Afghan custody.

The call for a permanent international address for the Taliban came after a series of failed efforts towards talks by Afghans and their Western allies, some of them with interlocutors who turned out to be frauds.

These culminated in the September 2011 killing of Karzai's top peace envoy, former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, by a man accepted as a Taliban representative, which appeared to temporarily destroy Karzai's appetite for negotiations.

An office in Qatar would also help address Afghan worries about the influence of the Pakistani government over the insurgent group, whose leaders are mostly believed to be based across the porous border.

First Published: January 5, 2012, 1:53 AM IST
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