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Peace progress? Qatar gives Taliban an office address

The Taliban, US, and Afghan officials have agreed to the let the Taliban set up an office in Qatar, providing a historic avenue for direct talks.

By Correspondent / January 3, 2012



Kabul, Afghanistan

In what could be one of the most significant steps toward a peace deal with the Taliban yet, the insurgent group announced on Tuesday that it had reached a preliminary agreement with the Qatari government to open a political office there.

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Agreeing to let the Taliban have an overseas office is meant to be an act of good faith by the United States, NATO, and the Afghan government to show the Taliban that they’re serious about talks.

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As the Monitor reported last week, Western and Afghan officials agreed to support such an office in Qatar. Talks have been a primary focus for the past year, but a physical address for the Taliban would mean an unprecedented, clear channel of communication that could facilitate substantive negotiations.

“We are now ready to have an office abroad for the talks with the internationals,” wrote the Taliban in an official statement released on Tuesday. “The stance of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban] from the beginning has been that there should be an end to this occupation and Afghans should be left to make an Islamic government in the country which should not be harmful for anyone.” 

The Taliban also requested the release of several of its members currently detained at Guantanamo Bay and denied media reports indicating an imminent breakthrough on negotiations.

With much of the Taliban’s leadership believed to be in Pakistan, NATO and Afghan officials had hoped Afghanistan’s neighbor would assist with peace negotiations. But such hopes have been increasingly dashed by a deterioration of US-Pakistani relations, which culminated last month in Pakistan’s boycott of the much anticipated Bonn Conference.

Without the support of Pakistan, it was virtually impossible to access the Taliban's senior leadership. Thomas Ruttig, a senior analyst at Afghanistan Analysts Network writes: 

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