DOHA: In a significant political development that may have a positive impact on efforts to bring peace in trouble-torn Afghanistan, the Taliban movement has decided to set up a bureau in Doha.
The government of Qatar, while welcoming the move yesterday said it hoped the bureau would help facilitate efforts to ensure security and peace between Taliban and other parties involved in Afghanistan.
An official source at Qatar’s Foreign Ministry told Qatar News Agency (QNA) late last evening that the decision to set up the bureau followed the release of a joint statement at the White House in Washington by US President Barack Obama and his Afghanistan counterpart
Obama and Karzai said in the joint statement issued later yesterday that they supported opening an office in Doha for negotiations between the Kabul regime and authorised representatives of the Taliban.
After a meeting with Karzai, Obama said Nato troops would speed up transfer of lead security responsibility to Afghan forces this spring, in a sign the pace of United States troop withdrawals could quicken, according to wire agency reports trickling from Washington.
The crucial round of talks, the reports added, is expected to help determine how fast the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan and if it leaves a residual force after 2014.
Obama faces the challenge of pressing ahead with his re-election pledge to continue winding down the war, while preparing Kabul to prevent a slide back into chaos and a Taliban resurgence once most Nato forces are gone by the end of next year.
Back in Doha, the foreign ministry source was quoted as saying by QNA, Qatar’s official news agency, “The State of Qatar is keen on supporting any effort that will establish comprehensive and lasting peace in Afghanistan and help achieve unity among its people”.
The official reiterated that both Obama and Karzai had voiced their support for setting up the Taliban bureau in Doha in the statement they released earlier.
“Both presidents said that the bureau will help advance peace talks between the Afghan Supreme Peace Council and the Taliban.”
The Peace Council was established late in 2010 with 68 members who include intellectuals, scholars and community elders, some of them being women. The Council was set up at the behest of President Karzai to hold peace talks with the Taliban.
The Qatari foreign ministry source said that both the presidents have also asked the State of Qatar to facilitate peace efforts in Afghanistan.
They have also called on the armed opposition in Afghanistan to join the peace process, QNA said.