|The Taliban will get a political office endorsed by Obama right near education city and Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University in Education City. How fitting.
(Source: via 9-11 do more then never forget) Washington has endorsed plans for the Islamist network to open political headquarters in the gulf state of Qatar by the end of the year. The move has been devised so the West can begin formal peace talks with the Taliban. As a potent reminder of the potential value of a truce with the Taliban, attacks by the Islamist network in Afghanistan yesterday left two dead and 101 wounded in a truck bomb, marking one of the bloodiest days for American forces since the US invasion 10 years ago.
The office of the self-styled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would be the first internationally recognised representation for the Taliban since its fall in 2001.
The White House declined to comment on the development last night as Mr Obama addressed the nation on the anniversary of the al-Qa’ida attacks. In the decade since, there has been a shift in Washington’s attitudes towards the Taliban and a growing official distinction between the Pashtun nationalists and their former allies in al-Qa’ida.
Western diplomats said it was hoped the opening of the Taliban office would help to advance talks intended to reconcile insurgents with the Afghan government and bring an end to the decade-long US-led war.
Qatar is believed to have agreed to host the office after Washington insisted that it be located outside Pakistan’s sphere of influence. The Afghan government has accused Islamabad of meddling in several previous efforts to negotiate with Taliban intermediaries in an effort to preserve its influence inside Afghanistan.
Western officials said the opening of the office would serve as a confidence-building measure in the lead-up to what they hope will become formal talks towards ending the war.
It would be an address where they had a political office, said one Western diplomat. It would not be an embassy or a consulate but a residence where they could be treated like a political party.
The diplomat stressed the Taliban would not be permitted to use the office for fundraising or in support of their armed struggle in Afghanistan. It is understood the Taliban is seeking assurances that its representatives in Doha, the Qatari capital, would be free from the threat of harassment or arrest.
The initiative follows more than a year of informal stop-start talks between Western diplomats and a senior representative of the Taliban, Tayyab Agha, at the home of a former Taliban diplomat in Qatar.
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the former Taliban ambassador to Islamabad and one-time envoy to the UN in New York, said Mr Agha was negotiating with the personal authority of the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Western diplomats said there was little hope of brokering a end to the conflict without his blessing. Previous attempts at negotiations have foundered over the credentials of intermediaries.
Mr Mujahid said the Taliban was seeking to develop its direct contacts with the US because it had little faith in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s ability to honour promises without US backing.
Additional reporting: Jerome Starkey, Kabul