by Abdul Haleem, Yangtze Yan
KABUL, Jan. 6 -- The reported contacts between the U.S. and Afghan Taliban and the latter's plan to open a liaison office in Qatar to facilitate dialogue have met with cautious welcome among war-weary Afghans who are wondering whether the move will lead to viable peace in the country. Meanwhile, the Afghan government has welcomed the step but stressed the peace talks should be an Afghan-led process. The Afghan government welcomes any steps that lead to restoration of lasting peace in the country, said a statement released by the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.
"The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has welcomed the recent talks between the United States of America and the Taliban that led to a practice which will let Taliban to open an office in Qatar," said the statement.
Nevertheless, the Afghan government has stressed that the talks should be an Afghan-led peace process.
"Any talks with the Taliban should be led by Afghans. Today's Afghanistan is different from 10 years ago. Afghanistan has strong government and elected president today," Afghan president's spokesman Aimal Faizi was cited as saying by the popular local television Tolo.
Although the U.S. administration, like the Afghan government, has welcomed Taliban decision to open an office for dialogue in the Gulf state of Qatar, bringing the warring sides to negotiating table remains very difficult in view of their pre-conditions and the complicated political landscape in Afghanistan.
Both Washington and Kabul have categorically demanded that Taliban should severe ties with the al-Qaida network, renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution which guarantees freedom of press, gender equality, education for women and holding elections. The Taliban outfit, however, has been denying education for women and holding parliamentary and presidential polling in addition to call for pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
In a statement sent to media Tuesday, the Taliban outfit announced the decision to open an office in Qatar in a move that seems to marginalize the Afghan government in the proposed peace talks.
"We are ready to have a political office overseas and in this regard we have reached preliminary understanding with Qatar and other relevant sites," it said in the statement.
However, Afghan political observers believed it is a hard job to bring fragmented factions within the Taliban outfit fighting Afghan and NATO-led forces to a united platform for talks.
"Since there are so many groups who are against any kind of talks and reconciliation with the Afghan government and the United States, these groups will certainly intensify their attacks and we might expect bloody years from now until 2014 because these groups will do everything possible to undermine this reconciliation process," political analyst Haroun Mir told Xinhua.
Again, the Haqqani network, a powerful anti-government militant network operating in Kabul and eastern Afghan provinces along the border with Pakistan, has yet to comment on the proposed peace talks in Qatar.
Taliban's supreme leader, the elusive Mullah Mohammad Omar who has escaped the U.S.-led military campaign over the past decade since his regime was toppled in late 2001 and has ordered his loyalists to intensify attacks in Afghanistan, has also yet to make comment on the talks with U.S. administration, local media reports said.
"Finding solution to Afghan crisis is too difficult as it is a multi-dimensional issue. It takes more time than expected to find a negotiated settlement as there are several splinted groups within Taliban and foreign hands supporting specific factions," Kabul University Professor Faizullah Jalal toldon Friday.