Wednesday February 21, 2024

Taliban seek recognition for Qatar office,direct talks with US

December 10, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Taliban have demanded official recognition for their political office in Qatar, direct talks with the United States and removal of senior members from a UN blacklist, describing these as preliminary steps to peacefully ending their insurgency.

A Qatar-based Taliban spokesman, Sohail Shaheen, has asserted the presence of US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan is the “root cause” of war and its continuation. The “foreign occupation forces” are undermining the country’s sovereignty and freedom of its politics as well as the government, he added.

“That is why there is need for America and its allies to come to the table for direct talks with the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) for negotiating an end to the occupation,” Shaheen said. If peace is the objective of the other side, he asserted, then the Taliban must be allowed to open their “political office” in Qatar and names of their senior members be removed from the UN blacklist. “These obstacles in the way of establishing peace cannot be simply ignored,” Shaheen said, warning that “mere slogans and statements” (by the other side) would further complicate the issue rather than promoting Afghan peace.

The Taliban have an unofficial political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state, for meetings with Afghan and foreign interlocutors. The controversial facility was formally opened in 2013, but the move outraged the Afghan government, forcing Qatari authorities to stop Taliban from officially using it. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also refused to give recognition to the Taliban office. Instead, he has intensified military operations against insurgents in Afghanistan and has even recently asked the United Nations to declare Taliban chief Mullah Hibatullah as global terrorist. The stepped up Taliban hostilities this year have allowed the insurgents to inflict heavy casualties on Afghan forces and capture more territory, diminishing hopes for any peace talks between the warring sides. 

Ghani's move to demand that the UN blacklist the Taliban leader deals another blow, says Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. “If Kabul is willing to so bluntly reject Taliban’s preconditions for talks, it’s effectively sent a signal that talks are off the table for the foreseeable future,” Kugelman told VOA.