Does the Taliban need a diplomatic voice?

Sept. 19, 2011 at 11:33 AM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Giving the Taliban diplomatic influence is a much-needed step in political reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan, a U.S. foreign policy expert said.

A report last week from The Times of London claimed Washington supported a plan for the Taliban to open an official political office in Qatar. The plan, the newspaper said, coincides with efforts to start formal peace talks with the former leaders of Afghanistan.

Xenia Dormandy, a U.S. foreign policy expect at Chatham House, said that while a diplomatic presence for the Taliban wasn't a "final solution" to Afghanistan's political woes, it was a "necessary step," German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports.

"Some kind of legalized office where Taliban representatives can function is a prerequisite to talks getting anywhere," added Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, stressed that any efforts to reach out to certain members of the Taliban was an Afghan initiative.

"The U.S. has certain red lines," she added.

The U.N. Security Council in June voted to split sanctions imposed on al-Qaida and Taliban members. The process is seen as part of an effort to clear moderate elements of the Taliban for reintegration into political life in Afghanistan.

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