But when his top peace broker, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in a suicide bombing in the fall, Karzai rescinded his offer to talk. He said instead that he would henceforth talk only to Pakistani officials, because the Taliban’s leaders have long operated out of havens across the border. At times, aides say, he has felt blindsided by clandestine talks that U.S. officials have held with the Taliban.
The Taliban statement said there were “two main parties involved” in Afghanistan over the past decade: the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” — the insurgents’ name for the country — and “the United States of America and its foreign allies.”
The statement also said that the group’s vision for the Qatar office was to promote its own political views and “to spread understanding with the international community.” U.S. officials have said the Taliban representatives were told that the office could not be used for recruitment or political activities.
Some Afghan officials expressed concern Tuesday about the prospect of negotiations.
“This is being planned based on the politics of the United States,” said parliament member Fauzia Kofi, who is regarded as pro-American. “History is repeating itself. This may result in bringing the Taliban back to power. None of our achievements have been systematic, and they can all collapse at any time.”
Arsallah Rahmani, a member of the government-appointed Afghan peace council who was a deputy minister when the Taliban governed Afghanistan, said talks with the Americans are worth a try.
Rahmani said the Taliban envoys who are expected to operate out of the Qatar office include Tayyab Agha, the former personal secretary of Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, and Obaidullah Akhund, who served as defense minister in the Taliban government. Agha, who speaks English fluently, took part in several earlier sessions with U.S. officials. Rahmani said Agha, Akhund and at least three other Taliban envoys have moved to Qatar with their families in recent days.
“These are people who are not involved in the fighting,” Rahmani said.
A key question is how Pakistan would react to talks. Afghan and U.S. officials have accused Pakistan’s military and dominant spy agency of playing a spoiler role in the Afghanistan war.
“Without Pakistan’s cooperation, we will not achieve anything,” Rahmani said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, said in a text message that his government supports an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.” He did not elaborate.