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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs