Tuesday, June 18, 2013

 

U.S., Taliban to meet in Doha

WASHINGTON, June 18 - The United States will meet the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha for a peace process in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

"The U.S. will have its first formal meeting with the Taliban, and indeed first meeting with the Taliban for several years, in a couple of days in Doha," a senior administration official told reporters via conference call.

The meeting comes at a time when the Afghan government was taking the lead in military operations across the country on Tuesday and the Taliban was opening a political office in Doha.

The officials joining the conference call said the U.S.-Taliban meeting is expected to be followed by another one within days between the Taliban and the Afghan High Peace Council, a 70-member body set up by the government in the summer of 2010 to initiate peace talks with the Taliban.

"I think that given the level of distrust among Afghans, it's going to be a slow process to get that dialogue, that intra-Afghan dialogue moving," one official said. "And the United States will encourage and help facilitate that."

The officials played down expectations of the first U.S.- Taliban meeting, defining it as one for exchanging agendas rather than engaging in any "substantive, detailed" discussion.

"We'll tell them what we want to talk about; they'll tell us what they want to talk about; and we'll both then adjourn and consult on next steps, and then have another meeting in a week or two later," one official said.

The officials said Washington will raise the issue of the Taliban cutting ties with al-Qaida, urge the Taliban to "talk seriously" to the Afghan government and seek the return of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army sergeant held prisoner by the Taliban for the past four years.

The Taliban would issue statements in Doha later Tuesday to declare its opposition to the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries and its support for an Afghan peace process, according to the officials.


"These are two statements which we've long called for and together, they fulfill the requirements for the Taliban to open an office, a political office, in Doha for the purposes of negotiation with the Afghan government," one official said.

The American and NATO troops transferred the control of 95 remaining districts to Afghan security forces in a ceremony on Tuesday, completing a transition process that started in 2011 and paving the way for a full withdrawal of coalition forces by the end of 2014 following a nearly 12-year bloody war against the Taliban.

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