News / Asia

News of Taliban Office in Qatar Sparks Flurry of Speculation

At left, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Dec. 2011; Taliban fighters near Kabul, 1996 (file image).
At left, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Dec. 2011; Taliban fighters near Kabul, 1996 (file image).
Ayaz Gul

The New Year in war-ravaged Afghanistan has dawned with hopes the country can finally move towards a peace process bringing the bloody conflict there to an end.

For the first time since the U.S.-led coalition invaded the country 10 years ago, the Taliban this week disclosed they are engaged in talks with U.S. officials and have reached a preliminary deal to set up a political office in the Gulf state of Qatar. In addition, the insurgent group says it has also asked for the release of its prisoners being held at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced that his country agrees with the plan to open a Taliban office in Qatar, and with Washington’s efforts to talk with the insurgent group, as a way to prevent further conflict and the deaths of Afghan civilians.

Neighboring Pakistan has reacted cautiously, declining to say whether it is involved in the peace process. However, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar reiterated her country's support for any Afghan-led effort aimed at political reconciliation in the war-torn country.

"The stability of the region is one of Pakistan’s core national interests because Pakistan has suffered for too long because of lack of stability in the region," she said. "So any move, any effort towards reconciliation, towards national stability in Afghanistan, has a direct positive effect on Pakistan, so Pakistan would obviously be supportive of that."

According to Kabul-based analyst Omar Sharifi, it would be premature to tie too many hopes to the Taliban’s announcement that it has agreed to open a political office, but that there are reasons behind President Karzai's public support for the move.

"They welcomed the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar, but the logic behind this, of course, is [that] they would love to see a kind of contact address for the Taliban," he said. "More importantly, they would very much like to see the exclusive Pakistani monopoly over the Taliban [be] somehow eased or loosened."

Pakistan’s military is also accused of maintaining close ties with the anti-U.S. Haqqani network of Afghan insurgents, based in the Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan. But Pakistani observers like Rustam Shah Mohmand, former ambassador to Afghanistan, insist that any Afghan peace arrangement not involving Islamabad would be difficult to implement.

"Because there are still many Afghan refugees in Pakistan and ... many Taliban leaders come and go, so Pakistan’s position would be very pivotal," he said. "I am sure that at some point in time the Pakistanis will have to be brought on board."

American officials have refused to comment directly on their reported contacts with the Taliban, but have suggested it could help move toward a negotiated settlement of the conflict. U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad Cameron Munter, however, dismissed suggestions Pakistan is being kept out of the process.

“We are both committed, both Pakistan and the United States, to a peaceful, successful, prosperous Afghanistan," he said. "We are committed to working together to try to achieve those goals ... not only about our cooperation together, but our cooperation with regional partners to make sure that a settlement that is reached in Afghanistan is something that is satisfactory for everyone in the region."

Separately, representatives of the Afghan insurgent group led by fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also traveled to Kabul this week to meet with President Karzai, General John Allen, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, and Ryan Crocker, Washington’s envoy to Kabul.

Hekmatyar's Pakistan-based son-in-law, Ghairat Baheer, led the three-member delegation to the Afghan capital. Speaking to VOA at his residence in Islamabad, Baheer described talks with the Americans as "very frank, detailed, direct and useful."

"I think the Americans seem to be more pragmatic and realistic then they were before," he said. "We believe if the Americans are serious in their withdrawal from Afghanistan [by end of 2014], if this is a formal and final stance, then the rest of the issues could be subjected to negations."

The United States plans to withdraw all its combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But most observers believe that without sustained international backing, deep divisions among various Afghan factions including the Taliban could return the country to a civil war-like situation, much like the one Afghanistan experienced after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in the 1990s.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid