- The Afghan High Peace Council warns against other nations meddling
- Peace talks should be led by Afghans, a council member says
- Recent reports have hinted at the United States trying for a separate deal
- A senior negotiator's assassination slowed talks
Afghanistan will accept the presence of a Taliban liaison office in Qatar but under strict ground rules forbidding foreign intervention in peace talks, the government peace council said Tuesday.
Ismail Qassemyar, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council, warned against the United States or other nations trying to strike their own peace deals with the militants.
"We ask our international friends not to hold any kind of talks with the Taliban leaders," Qassemyar said. "It is an Afghan process, and we want it to be led by Afghans."
Recent media reports have said the United States and other foreign governments with a stake in the Afghan war may try to strike a separate deal with the Taliban.
The Washington Post reported last week that the Obama administration reached such a tentative deal with Taliban negotiators that would have included the transfer of five Afghans from U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Taliban's public renunciation of international terrorism.
The deal collapsed, the Post said, because Afghan President Hamid Karzai's objections.
The Taliban reportedly wants to establish an office from which it can negotiate a peace deal. But the peace process slowed after suicide bombers killed senior Afghan peace negotiator and former President Burhannudin Rabbani in September.
Karzai told CNN this month that the government cannot hold talks until the Islamic militia identifies a representative with the authority to negotiate.
Karzai said Rabbani's death showed that "we were actually talking to nobody."
"A man who came in the name of a messenger for peace turned out to be a suicide bomber," Karzai said. "Therefore, we have now clearly said that we will welcome a Taliban address, but that address must have the clarity that this representative is authorized and is representing the Taliban movement as we see it."
In an October visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed reconciliation efforts with Afghan officials. She said the United States is working toward a peaceful Afghanistan.
"No people in the world deserve it more," she said.
The Afghan public is in sync with the international community in its support of opening talks with the Taliban to find a way to end the decade-long war, according to Patricia Gossman of the United States Institute of Peace.
However, negotiations won't be easy, Gossman wrote.
"In spite of the talks, no one in Washington or Kabul has clarified what reconciliation means in practice, particularly with respect to accountability for abuses that occurred during the rule of the Taliban as well as those that occurred when rival factions fought with each other before the Taliban came to power," she wrote.
Qassemyar said a Taliban office in Qatar would by no means legitimize the Islamist group.
"We accept an address for the Taliban in Qatar if they come there as a movement or a group, not a government or use it as a propaganda venue," he said.