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BAGHDAD - Agence France-PresseAfghan President Hamid Karzai on Dec. 31 welcomed remarks from the Obama administration that the Taliban were not necessarily America’s enemies.
Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with Newsweek magazine that the Islamist militants did not represent a threat to U.S. interests unless they continued to shelter al-Qaeda. “Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests,” Biden was quoted as saying by Newsweek.
“I am very happy that the American government has announced that the Taliban are not their enemies,” Karzai said in a speech to the Afghan Academy of Sciences. “We hope that this message will help the Afghans reach peace and stability.” A senior U.S. official said that Washington plans to continue a series of secret meetings with Taliban representatives in Europe and the Persian Gulf region next year. On Dec. 27, Karzai said his government would accept the Taliban establishing a liaison office in Turkey, Qatar or Saudi Arabia for the purpose of holding peace talks.
France’s defense minister backed U.S. efforts to open peace talks with the Taliban, saying a proposed Taliban liaison office outside Afghanistan would provide a venue for those within the radical Islamic movement who are willing to explain their positions.
Speaking at the end of a brief visit to French troops, Gerard Longuet said he had asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the idea. Karzai “explained the reasons ... for Doha as a venue for meetings where the Taliban who wish to do so can express themselves and meet with Afghans or members of the coalition who wish to talk to them,” Longuet said. “It seems that there is a part among the forces fighting against the (government), there is a will to explain themselves, to be understood. We should never close that door.”