(WASHINGTON) — In what could wind up being a giant step toward ending the 10-year long war in Afghanistan, the Taliban has announced that it will open a political office in Qatar.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, would not say when the office would actually open.
It’s also unclear whether this is a move by the Taliban to finally enter into serious negotiations to end the conflict or if the group is simply reiterating its demand that the U.S. and its NATO allies withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible.
Washington prefers to see the glass as half-full, given that the Taliban is overwhelmingly outmanned and out-equipped in the war despite showing no signs of surrendering or abandoning attempts to overthrown the fragile Afghan government.
Since almost the onset of the war, U.S. officials have maintained that it would end through a political solution, not an all-out military victory.
The wild card throughout the decade has been the role of Pakistan, which provides safe haven to the Taliban, al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists while at the same time, claiming to fight terrorists that also want to overthrow the regime in Islamabad.
If and when the office in Qatar opens, the U.S. and its allies would likely meet Taliban intermediaries there to work out some kind of reconciliation process. The last attempts at talks ended badly last September when lead Afghan peace negotiator Burhanuddi Rabbani was killed by an assassin.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ben Westcott, CNN
Arwa Damon, Waffa Munayyer and Bryony Jones, CNN
Angela Dewan, CNN