Qatar aims for Afghan peace process by 2014

Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:48pm EST
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By Regan Doherty

DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar aims to see a peace process in Afghanistan by the time NATO combat operations end in 2014, Qatar's prime minister said on Tuesday as the Afghan Taliban movement prepared to open an office in the Qatari capital.

With the focus in Afghanistan shifting from a military push by NATO troops to potential talks on a peaceful settlement, U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai said last week they supported the opening of a Taliban office in Doha.

Obama is seeking an orderly way out of the war, which was triggered by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States by an al Qaeda network harbored by the Taliban.

The planned office is one of a series of gestures, including the possible transfer to Qatar of Taliban detainees from the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay prison, aimed at injecting momentum into the tentative reconciliation efforts.

Qatar, a long-time Gulf Arab peace broker in Afghanistan's war, said preparations were under way to open the Taliban's office as soon as possible to facilitate talks.

"The U.S. and others will withdraw in 2014, and I think it's an important core ideal that at least there is a political process in place, to have stability," Qatari premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told a news conference with his Libyan counterpart in Doha.

"Our aim is to help our Afghan brothers and find a solution accepted by all, or most, parties," he added.

A senior European diplomat told Reuters last week that several Taliban representatives were already on the ground in Doha but a formal office had not yet been opened.   Continued...