US, Afghan leaders welcome opening of Taliban office in Qatar

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For the first time, all parties working to set up a Taliban office in Qatar have openly acknowledged that it’s going to happen.

After more than a year of denials, the White House issued a joint statement earlier this week from US president Barack Obama and Afghan president Hamid Karzai expressing support for the opening of the office.

According to the statement:

The Leaders said that they would support an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban.

In this context, the Leaders called on the armed opposition to join a political process, including by taking those steps necessary to open a Taliban office. They urged the Government of Qatar to facilitate this effort.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry confirmed to QNA last night that the bureau would be set up, but no details on where it will be located were provided.

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The opening of a Taliban office in Qatar has been discussed for over a year, but talks were repeatedly suspended when relations between US and Taliban officials grew strained.  

Prisoner exchange 

One of the primary gripes of the Taliban negotiators has been that the US has failed to take practical steps to release its members from Guantanamo Bay.

Last year, a potential prisoner exchange was discussed, in which five Afghan prisoners would be sent to Qatar in exchange for a US solider held captive in Afghanistan. According to media reports, the Taliban favored the idea, but the US had not agreed.

At the time, a former Taliban official said that the Qatari government would take measures “to ensure these Taliban figures will not use Qatar soil to organize and conduct attacks against anyone,” adding that the men’s families may have been transferred here.

Credit: Photo of former Taliban fighter courtesy of ISAF Media

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