Afghanistan’s Karzai in Qatar

Posted: March 31, 2013 by Ellion hossain in News
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Former Taliban fighters display their weapons after joining Afghan government forces during a ceremony in Herat
Direct talks with the Taliban still face several obstacles

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in the Gulf state of Qatar on a two-day state visit for talks with the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani about Taliban.

The possibility of the Taliban opening a political office in Qatar is expected to be discussed, officials say.

The setting up of an office in Qatar is regarded as a key step in formalising a channel for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

US-led Western troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The Taliban itself has so far refused to talk to Mr Karzai, describing him as an American puppet, although it did hold inconclusive discussions with United States officials last year.

Last month, President Karzai issued an order banning Afghan security forces from calling in foreign air strikes in residential areas, because of heightened tensions about the extent of civilian casualties.

Mr Karzai’s office said the talks in Qatar would focus on bilateral cooperation and on Afghanistan’s peace process.

Last month Mr Karzai and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said that they would work towards a peace deal for Afghanistan within six months.

“The opening of the Taliban office in Qatar is not related to Karzai, it is a matter between the Taliban and the Qatar government,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

“Our representatives who are already in Qatar won’t see or talk to him.”

As the Afghan president’s visit began on Saturday, there were reports that two children and nine suspected Taliban militants had been killed in an air strike by international forces close to the south-eastern city of Ghazni.

A Nato spokesman quoted by Reuters news agency said an Afghan police patrol had come under attack and had called in a helicopter for support.


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