In addition to relinquishing lead responsibility for security, the US said Tuesday it will be holding direct talks with the Taliban in support of the Afghan reconciliation process.
The first round will be held in a few days in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban has opened a political office, according to senior US officials.
On their part, the Taliban said in Kabul their political and military goals “are limited to Afghanistan” and that they did not wish to “harm other countries.”
That was an undertaking required from the Taliban — to say they oppose the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries and they support an Afghan peace process.
At their first meeting, which will take place in a few days — Thursday, according to some reports, the US and the Taliban are expected to exchange agenda papers.
“One of the things we want to talk about from the beginning is how they’re going to cut ties with al Qaeda — how quickly,” said a US official.
The second item, he added, will be “stressing that we do see this as primarily an intra-Afghan negotiation”. That is going to be far more important from the Afghan perspective. The core of this process will be negotiations among Afghans, and not, officials said, the US-Taliban talks.
Efforts to organise these talks have been on for a while now, in the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s intention to pull US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
And the realisation that the Taliban were not beaten.
“We have long said that this conflict will likely not be won on the battlefield, and that is why we support the opening of this office,” said a senior US official.
This was just the beginning of a “long, hard” process.