The Taliban opened a political office in Doha on Tuesday, as Washington said it hoped to begin talks with its Afghan foe in the Qatari capital “in a couple of days.”
The group, which has waged a deadly insurgency against U.S.-led troops ever since its government in Kabul was overthrown after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, pledged it would never allow Afghan territory to be used to threaten a foreign country.
Taliban representatives and Qatari officials opened the “political bureau of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in Doha, an AFP photographer reported.
The office is intended to open dialogue with the international community and Afghan groups for a “peaceful solution” in Afghanistan, office spokesman Mohammed Naim told reporters in Doha.
The U.S. welcomed the Taliban’s decision to open the office.
“I think the United States will have its first meeting with the Taliban for several years in a couple of days in Doha,” a senior U.S. official told reporters.
“Beginning of a very difficult road.”
Confirming that Washington will also use the office to communicate with the guerrillas, who are still battling U.S.-led NATO and Afghan troops, the official said it was the “beginning of a very difficult road.”
An Afghan official in Kabul told AFP that opening the office came due to “U.S. pressures.”
The Taliban, whose Kabul government was targeted in 2001 because it sheltered now slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, said it would not allow Afghan soil to be used as a launchpad to pose a similar threat again.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan doesn’t want any threats from Afghanistan soil to other countries, and neither permits anyone to threaten other countries using Afghanistan soil,” the group said.
“We support a political and peaceful solution that ends Afghanistan’s occupation, and guarantees the Islamic system and nationwide security.”
The militants said the office would help to build relations with the world, meet other Afghans and to contact the United Nations, other agencies and the media.
Qatar’s assistant minister for foreign affairs, Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri told reporters that “we are confident the office’s activity will help push forward peace... away from any military activity or violence inside or outside Afghanistan.”