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January 21, 2012

US Envoy: Taliban Must Renounce Terrorism to Participate in Talks

by Ayaz Gul

A top U.S diplomat has urged Taliban insurgents to denounce ties to international terrorists and support Afghan peace initiatives.  U.S special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman wrapped up two days of extensive talks with Afghan leaders in Kabul.

Special American envoy Marc Grossman says the United States and Afghanistan are supportive of a Taliban move to open a political office in Qatar to promote the Afghan reconciliation.

But he told reporters in Kabul that Washington expects to see some progress and a clear commitment by the insurgent group it is also willing to promote the peace efforts. “Efforts being made with Qatar to open an office for the Afghan Taliban need now to move to enable a conversation among Afghans for peace ... and secondly for an office to open, we also need to have a clear statement by the Afghan Taliban against international terrorism and in support of the peace process to end the armed conflict in Afghanistan," he said.

The special U.S envoy called on Kabul and Doha to establish direct contacts to finalize details of the Taliban diplomatic office.  He says the Afghan government would welcome a planning delegation from Qatar to further the process.

Grossman says he is traveling Monday to Doha to consult with the government of Qatar on his conversations with in Afghan leadership.

The Taliban disclosed earlier this month they were in contact with U.S. officials and have agreed in their preliminary talks to set up an overseas office in Qatar.  The insurgents say they are also seeking the release of several prisoners from the U.S military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But Grossman says no decision has been about releasing the detainees.  Speaking alongside the U.S envoy, Deputy Afghan Foreign Minister Javed Ludin reiterated his leadership’s backing for the overseas Taliban office and a possible U.S move to transfer some Taliban prisoners to Qatar.

“If the United States decides to transfer these detainees to Qatar, to the extent that that means these people will be reunited with their families, the Afghan government will support it," he said.

Marc Grossman made brief stops in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India before visiting Afghanistan.  He says he wanted to travel to Pakistan as well, but leaders there told him not to make the visit unless they complete the process of revising the policy toward Washington.

The U.S Special envoy reiterated that Pakistan’s role is crucial in the success of the Afghan peace process. “There really can not be a comprehensive settlement here, a peace process, unless Pakistan is part of it.  That is why we have continued our consultations with Pakistan," he said.

Islamabad has suspended its anti-terror cooperation with Washington since a cross-border U.S air strike in late November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.  As part of several punitive measures, Pakistan has closed its borders for supplies through its territory to U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan.