Taliban opens bureau in Qatar

US-backed office will help facilitate talks with Afghan Supreme Peace Council

Militant Islamic movement the Taliban has set up a bureau in Doha in order to host peace talks with the Afghan Supreme Peace Council.

The move, promoted by the government of Qatar, was also supported by US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, a joint statement released from the White House said.

The peace talks will focus on US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and on the possibility of leaving a residual force in the country after 2014. President Obama said NATO troops would speed up the transfer of lead security responsibility to Afghan forces starting from this spring and that the withdrawal of US troops could quicken.

The Afghan Supreme Peace Council is composed of 68 members, including women, and was established in 2010 at the behest of President Karzai precisely for engaging in peace talks with the Taliban.

A Qatar Foreign Ministry source was quoted by Qatar News Agency as saying: “The State of Qatar is keen on supporting any effort that will establish comprehensive and lasting peace in Afghanistan and help achieve unity among its people”.

It is not the first time that Qatar has taken on the role as mediator between two fighting factions trying to reach a peace deal. In 2011 Qatar mediated between Israel and Hamas in a negotiation that resulted with a swap of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

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