The U.S. agreed to the idea earlier last year. The third-country presence carries the risk of giving the Taliban an undeserved veneer of legitimacy, giving it the opportunity to buy time on the battlefield by going through the motions, and engage in blackmail over quitting negotiations. It also threatens the evolution of a Hizballah-like Taliban that joins the political process, but will not disarm.
Note also the continued talk of “trust-building” that involves “assurances” from the Taliban in exchange for concrete, risky concessions from the U.S. This is the first mention of a possible prisoner exchange for the abducted soldier Bowe Bergdahl, though it is not clear how seriously that is under discussion.
“Taliban strike deal with Qatar on office there,” by Patrick Quinn and Rahim Faiez for the Associated Press, January 3:
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) “” The Afghan Taliban said Tuesday that they have reached a preliminary deal with the Gulf state of Qatar to open a liaison office there, in what could be a step toward formal, substantive peace talks to end more than a decade of war.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid indicated the liaison office will conduct negotiations with the international community but not with the Afghan government “” a condition that President Hamid Karzai has indicated he would reject. Mujahid did not say when it would open.
The reported progress came as three bomb blasts hit Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, killing 13.
For the United States and its allies, the idea of a Taliban political office in the Qatari capital of Doha has become the central element in efforts to draw the insurgents into peace talks.
“Right now, having a strong presence in Afghanistan, we still want to have a political office for negotiations,” said Mujahid. “In this regard, we have started preliminary talks and we have reached a preliminary understanding with relevant sides, including the government of Qatar, to have a political office for negotiations with the international community.”
Mujahid’s emailed statement also said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan “” the name of Afghanistan under Taliban rule “” has “requested for the exchange of prisoners from Guantanamo.”
He was referring to a Taliban demand that the U.S. military release about five Afghan prisoners believed to be affiliated with the Taliban from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Taliban are holding Bowe Bergdahl, a 25-year-old U.S. Army sergeant from Hailey, Idaho, who is the only U.S. soldier held by the insurgents. He was taken prisoner June 30, 2009, in Afghanistan.
From the American perspective, other trust-building measures would involve assurances that the insurgents cut ties with al-Qaida, accept the elected civilian government of Afghanistan and bargain in good faith…
Of course they’ll promise to bargain in good faith.