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Taliban: Peace talks don't signal end to hostilities

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:46 AM EST, Thu January 12, 2012
Taliban fighters stand near their weapons after joining Afghan government forces at a ceremony in Herat on December 29, 2011.
Taliban fighters stand near their weapons after joining Afghan government forces at a ceremony in Herat on December 29, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Taliban says it's "utilizing its political wing alongside its military presence"
  • It blames media outlets that "distort realities"
  • The statement comes just over a week after the group tentatively agreed to open an office in Qatar

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghanistan's Taliban on Thursday cautioned that its recent support of peace talks doesn't mean that its militants will stop fighting or accept "the constitution of a stooge Kabul administration."

The group said that it's "utilizing its political wing alongside its military presence," while blaming media outlets that "distort realities."

"It is well known to the Mujahid nation of Afghanistan that the Islamic Emirate has been engaged in a struggle and Jihad for the past one and a half decade to establish an Islamic government in accordance with the request of its people. It is for this purpose and for bringing about peace and stability in Afghanistan that we have increased our political efforts to come to mutual understanding with the world in order to solve the current ongoing situation," the statement said.

"But this understanding does not mean a surrender from Jihad and neither is it connected to an acceptance of the constitution of the stooge Kabul administration."

The statement comes just over a week after the Taliban tentatively agreed to open an office in Qatar's capital city of Doha; a decision widely seen as an overture aimed at establishing an outside forum for political talks with NATO-led forces and the current Afghan administration, among others.

The move appeared to be the first time the Taliban -- who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when they were ousted by a U.S.-led invasion -- have offered peace talks without the condition of an American withdrawal.

Taliban's Qatar Office
Karzai endorses U.S.-Taliban talks
Qatar neutral ground for Taliban talks

Calling himself "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan spokesman," Zabiullah Mujaheed said the group has a "preliminary agreement with Qatar and other respective sides."

Still, it's unclear whether talks could ultimately foster a degree of peace in a country that's seen more than three decades of war.

The U.S. has insisted militants recognize the country's relatively new constitution, while the Taliban is asking for the release of prisoners from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for opening the office.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Wednesday that she's sending special envoy Marc Grossman to Afghanistan and Qatar next week in an effort to work out the details surrounding American interactions with the potential Taliban office.

Clinton said there's evidence of "support for such discussions."

Last week Afghan President Hamid Karzai also appeared to broadly endorse negotiations, though constitutional sticking points the Taliban have traditionally rejected -- particularly those involving womens' rights -- remain apparent impediments to further dialogue.

Karzai, top Afghan peace officials and the Americans -- who have tentatively pledged a troop withdrawal by the end of 2014 -- have also all previously said that talks had to take place between Afghans.

The Washington Post reported in December that the Obama administration reached a provisional deal with Taliban negotiators that would have included the transfer of five Afghans from Guantanamo Bay, and the Taliban's public renunciation of international terrorism.

But the deal collapsed, the Post said, because of Karzai's objections.

Talk of a peace process had also slowed in September, when suicide bombers killed senior Afghan peace negotiator and former President Burhannudin Rabbani.

CNN's Masoud Popalzai contributed to this report

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