US, Taliban strike deal to resume talks in Qatar shortly
07 July, 2012
ISLAMABAD: The United States and Taliban have agreed 'in principle' to resume talks in Qatar besides taking confidence-building measures (CBMs) to initiate a peace process in Afghanistan, our sources has learnt.
"Yes, the two sides are going to resume talks in Qatar probably next week or beyond," a senior member of the Afghan Taliban said on the condition of anonymity.
Taliban had suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the US in March, blaming Washington for being non-serious in the political process.
The Afghan Taliban negotiating team had started talks with the US in Qatar last year, demanding release of key Taliban detainees from Guantánamo Bay.
Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had denied that Taliban are holding peace talks with the US, adding that dialogue in Qatar was focusing on CBMs rather than peace.
But after few months of negotiations, Taliban had blamed the Americans for "ever-changing positions" and saw the US efforts to involve the Afghan authorities in the process as hurdles in moving forward with the talks. "When it comes to peace process Washington remains confused - going one step ahead and two steps back," Mujahid said, adding that the US should clear its mind before restarting peace talks.
According to the new deal, the process of releasing Taliban detainees from Guantánamo would be started with initially releasing five prisoners while a process to free Taliban leaders in Afghanistan had already been kicked off.
Official sources in Kabul confided to our sources via telephone that Washington had also introduced a new programme – that is to give political asylum to Taliban leaders in Turkey, Australia, Canada or any other country if they wished so.
Sources inside 'Political Commission' of Taliban Shura said that the mid-level leaders among other Taliban detainees had secretly been released from Bagram in the last three days as a gesture of goodwill.
"Though the prison was handed over to Afghan government but Washington still enjoys influence to release detainees," sources said.
Almost 49 prisoners, including high ranking Taliban, have reportedly been released from Bagram prison in the past two years in a bid to give peace a chance.
This freedom which has been dubbed as 'strategic release' programme is used by the US as a bargaining chips for further deals with the 'insurgents', sources said.
They said that under the deal reached between Taliban and the US, Washington would ensure release of detainees from Guantánamo Bay.
When asked, the Taliban sources rejected starting of talks with the Kabul government at this stage, saying, "If dialogue is being held with the US then talks with Karzai administration become meaningless."
Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah avoided commenting on the resumption of talks, however, he never denied talks with Washington.