Last Updated: Sun Jan 29, 2012 10:33 am (KSA) 07:33 am (GMT)

Taliban negotiators meet with U.S. officials in Qatar to discuss initial steps: report

A Taliban militant shoots and kills a Pakistani soldier in this still image taken from video obtained by Reuters on January 21, 2012. (Reuters)
A Taliban militant shoots and kills a Pakistani soldier in this still image taken from video obtained by Reuters on January 21, 2012. (Reuters)

Taliban negotiators have begun meeting with U.S. officials in Qatar, where they are discussing preliminary trust-building measures aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Citing several former Taliban officials, the newspaper said these measures included a possible prisoner transfer.

The Afghan government is expecting a delegation from the Qatar government to visit Kabul to explain its role in the talks, said High Peace Council secretary Aminundin Muzaffari.

The former officials said that four to eight Taliban representatives had traveled to Qatar from Pakistan to set up a political office for the exiled Afghan insurgent group, the report said.

The comments suggested that the Taliban, who have not publicly said they would engage in peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan, were gearing up for preliminary discussions, the paper said.

U.S. officials would not deny that meetings had taken place, and the discussions seemed to have at least the tacit approval of Pakistan, which has thwarted previous efforts by the Taliban to engage in talks, The Times noted.

Pakistani visit to Afghanistan

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will visit Afghanistan on February 1 to discuss reconciliation efforts there, a Pakistani newspaper reported on Sunday.

Khar was asked earlier this month by Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to travel to Kabul ahead of a trilateral summit on the future of Afghanistan.

The News reported that Khar would lead a small delegation on a one day trip to Kabul on February 1. No further details were given and officials were not immediately available for comment.

The United States sees Pakistan as critical to its efforts to wind down the war in neighboring Afghanistan, where U.S.-led NATO forces are battling a stubborn Taliban insurgency.

Khar told Reuters on January 19 that Pakistan’s ties with the United States remain on hold after a NATO cross-border air attack and that Washington should not push Islamabad to go after militant groups or bring them to the Afghan peace process.

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