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The Taliban have finally confirmed plans to open a political headquarters, ostensibly in Qatar, for peace negotiations. Previously, the Afghan group’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had said only that he was “unaware” of any such move.

In a statement emailed out to international news organizations today, Mujahid said:

“Right now, having a strong presence in Afghanistan, we still want to have a political office for negotiations.”

“In this regard, we have started preliminary talks and we have reached a preliminary understanding with relevant sides, including the government of Qatar, to have a political office for negotiations with the international community.”

The Afghan government also confirmed its support for such an office last week, after first recalled its ambassador to Qatar for “consultations.”

Reports from Afghanistan’s Tolo News in the past week have stated that Taliban leaders have already relocated to Doha to open the office, which is meant to be a headquarters for peace talks with the US and the Afghan government.

Credit: Photo of Afghan police courtesy of ISAF Media

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The Afghan government has apparently recalled its ambassador to Qatar for “consultations” amid fresh reports that the Taliban is setting up a political office here.

A statement issued on Wednesday from the Afghan Foreign Ministry did not offer reasons for the recall, saying only that “Kabul values ties with Qatar” and that their relationship would continue, according to the Associated Press.

Indian newspaper The Hindu had the same day published an article about the Taliban political office, saying:

Final arrangements have been put in place for the opening of a Taliban mission in the state of Qatar — the Islamist insurgent group’s first formal diplomatic office since it was evicted from power after 9/11 and internationally proscribed for its links to al-Qaeda.

The Hindu cites unnamed Indian diplomatic sources as saying the Taliban office would have the privileges of a diplomatic mission, but not the same protections.

A story carried by Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper a few days ago also asserted that talks had been held in Qatar recently between the US and the Taliban, although they yielded little result. 

Reports of such a political office first surfaced several months ago, when the UK’s The Times newspaper broke the story that the United States had agreed to the “Taliban embassy.”

A Taliban spokesman later said he was unaware of such a development though, and when questions by Al Jazeera’s David Frost, the Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said only that the arrangement was “premature, not yet complete.”

The original Times report had said the Taliban’s political office would be opened in Qatar by the end of the year, with its primary purpose being to facilitate peace talks with the United States.

Credit: Photo of Afghan tribal elders by Chad J. McNeeley/US Department of Defense