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Former Taliban officials indicate preliminary talks with US

Former Taliban officials indicate preliminary talks with US are underway, but stress that they are not peace talks.

Taliban fighters jan 2012Enlarge
Taliban fighters walk with their weapons after joining Afghan government forces for a ceremony in Ghazni province on January 16, 2012. Some 20 Taliban fighters including a key commander laid down arms and joined the peace process in Ghazni province. The Taliban, ousted from power by a US-led invasion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, announced earlier this month that they planned to set up a political office in Qatar ahead of possible talks with the United States. AFP PHOTO/Aref Yaqubi (AREF YAQUBI/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times reported on Saturday that several Taliban negotiators were preparing for preliminary meetings with American officials in Qatar, based on information from several former Taliban officials.

The former officials said that the Taliban negotiators might be discussing trust-building measures, including a prisoner swap especially from Guantanamo Bay, from Qatar where they have set up a political office.

More on GlobalPost: Afghanistan: President Karzai agrees to Taliban office in Qatar

The Times reported that American officials “would not deny that meetings had taken place” and that the meetings seemed to have the tacit approval of Pakistan, which has opposed previous attempts to engage the Taliban in talks.

An official in Afghani President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council spoke to AFP anonymously, saying, “There were some differences between the Afghan government, the Taliban, Qataris and US officials over the Taliban office in Doha, but there has now been agreement over the issue... Thus there is a good possibility that the Taliban office and formal talks could officially start soon.”

Maulavi Qalamuddin, a former minister of vice and virtue for the Taliban and now a member of the High Peace Council, told The Times, “Currently there are no peace talks going on.”

More on GlobalPost: Taliban ready to start peace talks with Afghanistan

Delegates from the Taliban have been in Qatar for months, according to AFP.

The Wall Street Journal reported that American military commanders still think the Taliban leadership plans to seize control of Kabul once foreign troops withdraw in 2014. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a potential Taliban government would be gentler, stating, “As a movement gets older, it becomes more mature, and makes positive changes.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120128/former-taliban-officials-indicate-preliminary-