Afghan Council OKs Taliban office in Qatar
KABULAfghanistan will accept a Taliban office in Qatar to help peace talks but no foreign power can get involved in the process without its consent, the government’s peace council said, as efforts gather pace to find a solution to the 10-year war.
Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, in a note to foreign missions, has set out ground rules for engaging the Taliban after Kabul grew concerned that the United States and Qatar, helped by Germany, had secretly agreed with the Taliban to open an office in the Qatari capital, Doha.
It said that negotiations with the Taliban could only begin after they stopped violence against civilians, cut ties to al-Qaeda, and accepted the Afghan constitution which guarantees civil rights and liberties, including rights for women.
The council, according to a copy of the 11-point note made available to Reuters, also said any peace process with the Taliban would have to have the support of Pakistan since members of the insurgent group were based there. “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is in agreement regarding the opening of an office for the armed opposition, but only to move forward the peace process and conduct negotiations,” the council said. The government would prefer such an office in either Saudi Arabia or Turkey, both of which it is close to, but was not averse to Doha as long as the authority of the Afghan state was not eroded and the office was only established for talks, officials said. “We are saying Saudi or Turkey are preferable, we are not saying it has to be there only. The only condition is it should be in an Islamic country,” said a government official.
President Hamid Karzai’s administration recalled its ambassador from Doha last week, apparently angry that it had been kept in the dark about the latest round of negotiations with the insurgent group. Officials said Kabul was also deeply concerned about reports that the United States was considering the transfer of a small number of Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay military prison to Doha as a prelude to the talks.