The Taliban have said they are prepared to open a political office in Qatar for the purpose of negotiations “with the international community” in what could be the most significant breakthrough towards a peaceful end in 10 years of war in Afghanistan.
A Taliban spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid, announced on Tuesday morning that the insurgent leadership had reached an agreement with the Qatar government and other “relevant parties” about the opening of the office but did not say when it would happen.
Secret discussions between American and Taliban officials have been under way for months about taking confidence-building measures including the establishment of a political office outside the immediate region and the release of Taliban prisoners. Initial reports suggested that a prisoner release had been negotiated at the same time as the Qatar office plan.
Western diplomats hope it would also lessen Pakistan’s control of the Taliban. Pakistan plays host to most of the Taliban leadership, which it sees as an important bargaining counter in negotiations over the future of the region.
One western diplomat said recently: “Whenever you talk to Taliban officials individually or in small group there is a lot of interest in a peaceful settlement. Whenever there are 10 or more in the room, they all clam up because nobody knows who might be an ISI (Pakistan intelligence) informer.”
It is not clear whether the Pakistan government had given its approval to the Qatar office opening. - GNS