The Afghan Taliban say that they are in contact with the United States through senior Qatari officials and some progress has been made towards initiating a dialogue process.
“A Qatari official is mediating talks between the two sides,” the Taliban official told The Express Tribune by phone from Doha on Monday. The Taliban official, who requested anonymity, identified the Qatari mediator as Waleed.
Qatar is also working as a bridge between the Taliban and the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai as the ultraconservative militia is unwilling to hold direct talks with Afghan authorities.
The Qatar dialogue process could not kick off as the Karzai administration has accused the US of adopting a contradictory approach towards the peace process.
“Some progress is expected during the Kabul visit of US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins,” an Islamabad-based Afghan source said.
“Ambassador Dobbins, who arrived in Kabul on Monday from Qatar, will call on President Hamid Karzai and other senior Afghan officials to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including the reconciliation process which President Obama and President Karzai agreed, is the surest way to a lasting peace and a unified, stable and secure Afghanistan,” said a statement issued in Kabul.
Ahead of his Kabul visit, Dobbins met with Qatari officials to discuss the Afghan peace process.
An Afghan government-backed peace council delegation is likely to fly to Qatar in the coming days as the US has removed the reservations of the Afghan government, a member of the council said.
Attaullah Ludin, a senior member of the High Peace Council, told the media in Kabul that the council was in the process of finalising a delegation for Qatar visit.
Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Musazai said the US gave written assurances to the Afghan government that the Taliban’s Doha office would be a platform for negotiations between the High Peace Council and Taliban representatives.
The Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, on Monday denied reports that the Taliban negotiators in Doha had agreed to lower the Taliban flag and remove the name of the Islamic Emirate from their office.
He also denied the Associated Press (AP) report that the Taliban had agreed to discuss the presence of some American troops in Afghanistan, according to a statement issued by the group’s spokesman in Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2013.