The step was a reversal of the Taliban’s longstanding public denials that they were involved in, or even willing to consider, talks related to their insurgency, and it had the potential to revive a reconciliation effort that stalled in September, with the assassination of the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. Cheap burberry - designer bags, shoes, accessories, clothing outlet 2012.
It was unclear, however, whether the Taliban were interested in working toward a comprehensive peace settlement or mainly in ensuring that NATO ends its operations in Afghanistan as scheduled in 2014, which would remove a major obstacle to the Taliban’s return to power in all or part of the country.
In a statement, Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said that along with a preliminary deal to set up the office in Qatar, the group was asking that Taliban detainees held at the American prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, be released. Mr. Mujahid did not say when the Qatar office would be opened, or give specifics about the prisoners the Taliban wanted freed.
“We are at the moment, besides our powerful presence inside the country, ready to establish a political office outside the country to come to an understanding with other nations,” the statement said.
American officials have said in recent months that the opening of a Taliban mission would be the single biggest step forward for peace efforts that have been plagued by false starts. The most embarrassing came in November 2010, when it emerged that an impostor had fooled Western officials into thinking he represented the Taliban and then had disappeared with hundreds of thousands of dollars used to woo him.
The official killed in September, Burhanuddin Rabbani, had been greeting a supposed Taliban negotiator when the man detonated a bomb in his turban.
The opening of an office in Qatar is meant to give Afghan and Western peace negotiators an “address” where they can openly contact legitimate Taliban intermediaries. That would open the way for confidence-building measures that Washington hopes to press forward in the coming months. Chief among them, American officials said, is the possibility of transferring a number of “high-risk” detainees — including some with ties to Al Qaeda — to Afghan custody from Guantánamo Bay. The prisoners would then presumably be freed later.
American officials said they would consider transferring only those prisoners the Afghan authorities requested. Among the names being discussed are Muhammad Fazl, the former Taliban deputy defense minister; two former provincial governors, Khairullah Khairkhwa of Herat and Noorullah Nori of Balkh; Abdul Haq Wasiq, a former top Taliban intelligence official; and one of the Taliban’s top financiers, Muhammad Nabi. Mr. Fazl is accused of having commanded forces that killed thousands of Shiite Muslims, who are a minority in Afghanistan, while the Taliban ruled the country.
The American officials said that another idea under consideration was the establishment of cease-fire zones within Afghanistan, although that prospect was more uncertain and distant. The officials asked not to be identified because of the delicacy of the talks.
Some analysts are skeptical of the prospect for meaningful peace negotiations with the Taliban. The Taliban are viewed as unlikely to cede significant ground at a time when NATO has begun to withdraw troops and intends to end combat operations here in less than three years. Another uncertainty is the role of Pakistan, which provides safe haven to Taliban leaders and has undermined past efforts at reconciliation talks that it sees as jeopardizing its interests.
But American officials have said for years that the war in Afghanistan would ultimately require a political solution. The “surge” of additional troops at the end of 2009 has largely been aimed at getting the Taliban to the negotiating table from www.cheapburberryoutlet2012.com.
On Tuesday, the White House affirmed the necessity of a negotiated solution. Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said in an e-mail that such “Afghan-led peace initiatives” were central to the American strategy of “denying Al Qaeda a safe haven, reversing the Taliban’s momentum, and strengthening the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government.”