The United States and Afghanistan have announced their intention to hold talks with the Taliban in Qatar. The plans were announced on Tuesday as the Taliban officially opened a new office in Doha. The group said it wants to find a political solution to Afghanistan's crisis.
A senior U.S. official said the first U.S. meeting with the Taliban would take place within the next few days. Afghan President Hamid Karzi said Tuesday that his government would send envoys to Qatar to try to open peace talks with the Taliban.
He made the comment during a ceremony in which Afghan forces took over responsibility for security for the entire country from an international military coalition.
President Karzai said while there were no immediate pre-conditions for talks between the Afghan peace council and the Taliban, his government had laid down principles.
"The principles are that the talks, having begun in Qatar must immediately be moved to Afghanistan; second, that the talks must bring about an end to violence in Afghanistan; third, that the talks must not become a tool for any third country for exploitation with regard to its or their interests in Afghanistan."
In an interview with the Aghan service, foreign policy expert John Feffer of the Institute for Policy Studies said it appears there is some resistance to talks within the ranks of the Taliban, with some members of the group taking a wait-and-see attitude.
“They are interested in seeing who will emerge to replace Karzai and they are interested in seeing how much control they can get on the ground, especially with the increased violence that has taken place recently.”
On Tuesday, a senior U.S. official said the Taliban and other insurgent groups needed to meet three conditions by the outcome of the process: breaking ties with al-Qaida, ending violence and accepting Afghanistan's constitution.
He also said leaders in neighboring Pakistan understood there can be no stability in their country without stability in Afghanistan. The official said Pakistan's support of the peace process was in keeping with its national interests.
The security transition was marred by a bomb blast Tuesday in another area of Kabul that targeted Afghan lawmaker Mohammed Mohaqiq, who survived the blast. Three people were killed in the bombing.
The Taliban has been executing an intense campaign of violence in the run-up to the handover.
At the handover ceremony near Kabul, Mr. Karzai said Afghan forces would take the lead in all security efforts, a major milestone of the 12-year-old war.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the main effort of the international military alliance "is shifting from combat to support."