(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Afghanistan’s president wants his government to start direct talks with the Taliban in an effort to end the 10-year-long war that appears to have reached a stalemate.
In a statement issued by his office Tuesday, Hamid Karzai said, “In order to realize the objectives of the peace process, I invite the leadership of the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government.”
Since Karzai’s administration was installed seven years ago, the Taliban has refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, vowing to take back the country after its regime was deposed following the October 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
At the moment, officials from the Taliban — the al-Qaeda linked group responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. and allied troops, and which sheltered Osama bin Laden during the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks — have set up an office in Qatar to communicate with the Obama administration. The two sides are reportedly working on a prisoner swap that would be a precursor to more serious talks about a peace process to end the long conflict.
Karzai made the announcement after conferring with President Obama by phone, who welcomed the news, according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
However, in order for discussions with the Taliban to get underway, Karzai must first gain the cooperation of Pakistan, where militia leaders have taken refuge since being ousted a decade ago.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Ralph Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN