Karzai in Qatar for Taliban talks


Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a joint news conference with US President Barack Obama on Jan. 11, 2013 in Washington, DC.


Chip Somodevilla

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Qatar on Saturday for talks, possibly to discuss opening a Taliban political office in the Gulf state.

"We will discuss the peace process, of course, and the opening of an office for the Taliban in Qatar," presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP.

Karzai had opposed establishing a Taliban office, but as Al Jazeera points out, the US - now set to withdraw its troops - wanted the Taliban involved in peace talks.

"If we want to have talks to bring peace to Afghanistan, the main side must be the Afghan government's representatives - the High Peace Council, which has members from all the country's ethnic and political backgrounds," Faizi added.

But a new office does not mean the Taliban will negotiate with Karzai or his government.

"The opening of the Taliban office in Qatar is not related to Karzai, it is a matter between the Taliban and the Qatar government," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.

Kabul said it would only support the Taliban office if it was established on strict terms.

"It can only be an address where the armed opposition sit and talk to the Afghanistan government," Faizi said. "This office can not be used for any other purposes."  

Karzai's trip follows news that a NATO helicopter killed at least one child and nine suspected Taliban militants on Saturday.

"We are aware of reports of civilian casualties resulting from an engagement in Ghazni district, Ghazni province, this morning in which an Afghan security force was attacked by insurgents and returned fire," A statement from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said.