The Taliban has opened an official headquarters in the Qatari capital of Doha today, with an eye on negotiating a settlement of the 12-year-long NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Talks are expected to include both Afghan government officials and the US.
The initiative to finally end the war is a long time coming, with the US spending years trying to open up side negotiations with mid-ranking Taliban, while openly insisting the talks were only designed to “divide” the rebellion.
It is the first major push for talks since March of 2012, when the Taliban withdrew in the early stages of talks, citing “erratic and vague” US statements, and public outrage over the recent Kandahar massacre made talking with the US unpopular.
The US has reportedly made new concessions with this round of talks, including scrapping the demand that the Taliban publicly disavow al-Qaeda. Since al-Qaeda has limited influence in the nation, at best, it is a minor move, but might be a trust-builder.
Taliban officials have long rejected talks with the Karzai government as well, insisting they don’t have any real clout to make deals in the first place. This time, however, it seems that there is a willingness to consider anything.
NATO is also reporting that it will “no longer plan, execute or lead combat operations” in Afghanistan, though whether this actually means anything concrete or is just part of the spin of a “transition” to Afghan control remains to be seen.