Wednesday, June 19, 2013

US Talks with Taliban Compromised

The United States and Afghanistan have announced their intention to hold talks with the Taliban in Qatar. The plans were announced on Tuesday as the Taliban officially opened a new office in Doha. The group said it wants to find a political solution to Afghanistan's crisis.

Meanwhile, the Taliban killed 4 American soldiers in a rocket attack on a convoy near Bergram Air Base in Afghanistan (June 19, 2013), just hours after the the Taliban office opened its doors for peace talks with the U.S. in Doha, Qatar, according to the Newser website.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as Afghan forces formally took charge of the country's security. In another setback for the hopes of military stability, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced today that the Afghan government was pulling out of talks on a new security deal with the U.S.

Karzi said on Tuesday that his government would send envoys to Qatar to try to open peace talks with the Taliban. He made the comment during a ceremony in which Afghan forces took over responsibility for security for the entire country from an international military coalition.

The United States has dropped some of its preconditions for engaging the Taliban and is now willing to hold direct talks with the militants, senior Obama administration officials said on Tuesday.

The Taliban too have agreed to support the Afghan peace process and the talks can now be held within days, officials said.

The White House deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, however, told reporters that he could not yet give a date for the talks.

It could be a “matter of days” when US talks to Taliban, he added, pointing out that US officials would also discuss the release of an American soldier now in Taliban’s custody.

“The United States will be supporting a process that is fundamentally Afghan-led,” he said. “We can play a role in talking to the Taliban as well in supporting that peace process and because we have issues of our own to bring up with them.”

Senior Obama administration officials told a briefing in Washington that the talks that led to this breakthrough involved the Taliban’s core leadership and included the Haqqani network.

The officials said the Taliban also have vowed not to allow their soil to be used for threatening other countries.

“I think the US will have its first formal meeting with the Taliban, and the first meeting with the Taliban for several years, in a couple of days in Doha,” said one US official.

Political representatives of the Taliban will shortly meet Afghan and US officials in Doha to discuss an agenda for “peace and reconciliation” before further talks with the Afghan government later this week, said another official.

“The Taliban will release a statement that says two things: First, that they oppose the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries; and second, that they support an Afghan peace process,” the official said.

“These are two statements which we’ve long called for and together, they fulfil the requirements for the Taliban to open an office, a political office, in Doha for the purposes of negotiation with the Afghan government.”

Another US official said the Taliban and other insurgent groups were now required to meet three end conditions: Break ties with Al Qaeda; end the violence; and accept Afghanistan’s constitution, including its protections for women and minorities.

Read more here and here.

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