Last updated: 3 April, 2013

Taliban Doha office could help Afghan peace, says Karzai

A Taliban office in Doha could “facilitate” talks with the militants, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview with Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television broadcast on Wednesday.

Karzai, who held talks Sunday with the emir of Qatar to discuss opening a Taliban office in the Gulf state, said he was keen on working with the Taliban to help bring about peace in Afghanistan before NATO ends combat operations there next year.

“We never planned to eliminate the Taliban. Not me, not the Afghan people, not the Afghan government,” Karzai told Al-Jazeera, according to excerpts of the interview to be aired in full at 1900 GMT on Al-Jazeera English.

“The moment I was declared the head of the interim government… I declared complete amnesty to Taliban… from the leadership to everybody else,” he said.

“And the plan was to bring them and have them reintegrate into Afghan society like all other Afghans,” he added, referring to the Islamic extremists as “brothers.”

Karzai said his Sunday talks with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani centred on how the energy-rich Gulf state can “facilitate the peace process.”

The Afghan president previously opposed a Taliban office in Qatar over fears that his government would be frozen out of any future peace deal involving the Islamic extremists and the United States.

The militants refuse to have direct contact with Karzai, calling him a puppet of the United States which supported his rise to power after the military operation to oust the Taliban from Kabul in 2001.

But with US-led NATO combat troops due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Karzai recently backed the proposed office in Doha.

In the interview with Al-Jazeera he said a Taliban office in Doha could pave the way for “direct contacts” and push forward the peace process in Afghanistan.

Any future peace talks still face numerous hurdles before they begin, including confusion over who would represent the Taliban and Karzai’s insistence that his appointees should be at the centre of negotiations.

Karzai was accompanied to Qatar by Salahuddin Rabbani, the head of the High Peace Council and insisted in the interview that the council is “the only avenue for talks.”