(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Negotiations with the very people who have been killing American service members in Afghanistan are now seen by the Obama administration as the only way to salvage a positive outcome there.
To that end, after nearly a year of direct negotiations with the United States, the Taliban is about to open its first official office, according to Afghan and Western officials. It’s the most significant sign yet that the Obama administration has decided an expedited political solution including the al Qeada-linked group is the only way to end the war in Afghanistan.
According to officials, the office is expected to open as early as the next few months in Qatar. It will facilitate negotiations with the Taliban that will include unprecedented local ceasefires in Afghanistan and the transfer of Afghan prisoners from American prisons — even though they are labeled “high risk” to the U.S. and associated with the deaths of a CIA officer in 2001 and hundreds of U.S. soldiers in 10 years of fighting since the attacks on 9-11.
Direct negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban began early this year and sped up in the summer, in part because the White House has doubts about the military’s ability to decisively win the war, according to two Western officials.
The war’s costs, widespread corruption in the Afghan government, Pakistani intransigence and continued violence in eastern Afghanistan — even as violence in southern Afghanistan decreases – have led many to lower expectations for what can be accomplished by a shrinking number of U.S. troops.
“Insurgencies end with political processes,” said a senior administration official. “We have been very clear that we are open to a reconciliation process provided Taliban who engage in it recognize that the process will be Afghan-led and that at the end of the day they break ties with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and accept the Afghan Constitution, including its protections of women’s and human rights.”
The details of the Taliban office were confirmed by Western officials and were given by Afghan officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Obama administration officials declined comment for the record.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Euan McKirdy and Natalie L. Gallón, CNN
Madison Park and Steve Almasy, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN
Sheena McKenzie, CNN