US backs move for Taliban to open office in Qatar

Move would be first step to facilitate formals talks with the Islamist network
Reports say US insisted that Talibans office be located outside of Pakistan’s sphere of influence
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Mon 12 Sep 2011 11:45 AM

Washington has reportedly given permission for the Taliban to establish a political headquarters in Qatar in a move that could see America begin formal talks with the Islamist network.

Qatar is understood to have agreed to the opening of the office, which will not be permitted for the use of fundraising, after the US insisted it be located outside of Pakistan’s sphere of influence, The Times newspaper reported on Monday.

It is hoped the move, which will be the first time the Islamist group will have been treated as a recognised political party since it fell from power in 2001, will help facilitate peace talks to end the ten year war in Afghanistan.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, weeks after the after the September 11 attacks, to help oust the Taliban. The Taliban regrouped and has been waging a fierce insurgency for years against the government, US troops and other Western allies in Afghanistan.

Sunday marked the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in which al Qaeda militants hijacked four airliners and killed almost 3,000 people.

The decision to formally set up an office in Doha follows a year of on and off talks between western diplomats, including the US and Britain, and senior members of the Taliban.

The Taliban is thought to be seeking assurances from Qatar that it will be free from harassment, said The Times. 

The White House declined to comment when questioned by the newspaper.

Western officials said that the opening of the office would serve as a “confidence-building measure” to what they hope will become formal talks.

“It will be an address where they have a political office,” said one Western diplomatic source, who declined to be named. “It will not be an embassy or a consulate but a residence where they can be treated like a political party.”

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