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Taliban arrive in Qatar to open office
 
 
 

KABUL (NNI) - A number of high-ranking Taliban members have arrived in Doha to continue efforts to open a liaison office for the group, Qatari newspaper Gulf Times reported. Afghan officials said they are working on opening the office for insurgent representatives to facilitate the peace process."We hope to open an office for the Taliban once the US and Qatar agree on the matter, and we hope to witness direct talks with the group," said Janan Moosazai, ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson.The High Peace Council said that presence of the group's officials in Qatar indicates the insurgents' inclination to hold talks with the Afghan government."The presence of Taliban members in Qatar -- we hope they are their top officials -- shows the group's agreement for opening an office for advancing peace talks with the government of Afghanistan," said Mohammad Ismail Qasemyar, international affairs adviser and member of the High Peace Council.The Taliban have so far rejected talking to the Afghan government, and there is no date set for the opening of the liaison office.Meanwhile according to Gulf Times, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, former long-term number two in Afghan Taliban hierarchy, will soon walk free from a Pakistani jail but he might be too frail to play any role in the Afghan reconciliation process, including the Doha initiative.Doha-based Pakistani and Afghan diplomats told Gulf Times that the former deputy to Taliban leader Mullah Mohamed Omer is “unlikely to have an active life because his health has gone down considerably”.“He isn’t in good shape any more…we cannot expect him to take part in the reconciliation process in any capacity,” revealed a Pakistani official, who is privy to the fast-moving Afghan reconciliation process that includes opening of a political liaison office for the militia in Doha.The revelation came days after a top Pakistani diplomat announced the country was considering releasing all the remaining Taliban prisoners, including Baradar, in its jails.“The remaining detainees, we are co-ordinating, and they will be released subsequently,” Jalil Jilani, the top bureaucrat of Pakistani foreign ministry, told a news conference in Abu Dhabi last week, according to Reuters.Asked if the former Taliban deputy leader, Mullah Baradar, would be among those to be freed, he said: “The aim is to release all” but did not elaborate further.Pakistan has over the past couple of months released dozens mid-ranked Taliban leaders detained by the country’s secret agencies.Baradar was picked up in a joint raid by the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the southern port city of Karachi in February 2010. The circumstances of his arrest are still ambiguous.Also this month, US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai announced in Washington they had decided in principle to let Taliban open a temporary liaison office in Doha.The news was later confirmed by the Qatari leadership at the highest level and also by the Afghan embassy but without giving any time frame.“I cannot confirm any time frame…but what I can say is that we are very close to it and it is going to happen as soon as modalities are decided (between Qatari and Afghan authorities),” Afghanistan ambassador to Qatar, Khaled Ahmed Zakriya, had said then.It was anticipated that Baradar - the 44-year-old militant leader who co-founded the Taliban movement with Mullah Omer - would lead the political process on behalf of the militia that was driven out of Kabul by US-led multinational forces back in 2001.But diplomats said it might not be the case. According to officials, Pakistan partly agreed to the release of Taliban prisoners because some of them, including Baradar, were facing health problems and Islamabad did not want them to keep them in detention any more.“In fact, as well as my knowledge is concerned and my assessment is, none of them, those have been released by us, is going to play any significant role in the reconciliation process,” said a Pakistani diplomat who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.As many as two top Taliban leaders – Mullah Akhund and Ustad Yasir – died in Pakistani jails in the past. These deaths apparently angered the Afghan militia, the group Western powers blame to be the proxy of country’s powerful security establishment.

 
 
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