Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed on Wednesday the Taliban’s intention to negotiate a peace deal with the United States in a presidential statement published by Western media outlets.
“Afghanistan agrees with negotiations between the United States of America and the Taliban which will result in the establishment of an office for Taliban in Qatar,” the statement said.
The Taliban announced on Tuesday that they had reached an “initial agreement” to open their first overseas office in the Gulf state, an unprecedented step toward peace negotiations with the United States, who has been fighting Taliban insurgents for a decade since ousting the radical movement from power in 2001.
In exchange for their move, the group has called for the release of prisoners held at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.
After a 24-hour delay in responding to the Taliban statement, which made no mention of the Kabul government as a side in the expected negotiations with the West, Karzai said the Taliban’s office in Qatar would help the group “reach an understanding with the international community.”
The talks could save Afghanistan from "conflict, conspiracy and the killings of innocent people,” the Afghan president said in his statement.
Both the White House and the Karzai administration have repeatedly stressed that the peace process should be led by Afghans.
In an interview with the Newsweek magazine published in late December 2011, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said the Taliban was not an “enemy” of the United States. His comments, welcomed by Karzai, reflected increasing efforts by Washington to find a political settlement to the bloody Afghan conflict as U.S. combat troops prepare to withdraw from the war-torn country by the end 2014.
U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday the Taliban office in Qatar could play a positive role in ending the war in Afghanistan. She stressed, however, that “this process will only be successful” if the Taliban were “prepared to renounce violence, break ties with al-Qaeda, support the Afghan constitution,” as well as respect “human rights.”