U.S. Welcomes Taliban’s Statement on Peace Talks

Mike O'Brien

The U.S. government on Tuesday welcomed a statement by the Taliban that the group was prepared to take the first step toward peace talks with the Afghan authorities.

The potentially historic move comes after 12 years of war following the entry of U.S. forces into the country in 2001 to fight Al Qaeda.

Tuesday’s statement was made in the Qatar capital of Doha where international negotiations have taken place in the last two years to get the Afghan government and the Taliban to talk to each other.

In a televised announcement, Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naim said that the group’s end game is "limited to Afghanistan" and that it did not "wish to harm other countries."

One senior official told the New York Times that the Obama administration in Washington believed the Taliban statement contained two key pledges: that the insurgents said Afghan soil should not be used to threaten other countries, and that they are committed to finding a peaceful solution to the war in Afghanistan.

The official added: "Together, they fulfill the requirement for the Taliban to open a political office in Doha for the purposes of negotiation with the Afghan government."

The Taliban spokesman announced the opening of an office in Qatar and said it would be used to meet with United Nations officials and international organizations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai signaled his acceptance of the office and said he wanted to begin talks in Afghanistan, not Qatar, as soon as possible.

At a news conference Mr. Karzai said: "Peace is the desire of the people of Afghanistan. Peace is a hope that the people of Afghanistan make sacrifices for every day," he said.