WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Washington supports a national reconciliation program led by the Afghan government, government officials said amid claims the Taliban are willing to talk.
Members of the Taliban announced they were setting up a liaison office in Qatar. Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert at Tufts University, told Bloomberg News the step was a major breakthrough in the lingering conflict in Afghanistan, where the Taliban once ruled.
"It doesn't mean things are going to be solved but it means they're coming out of the closet with negotiations," he said. "It's going from talking about talks to actually talking."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai last month said he welcomed the step offered by members of the Taliban. Western architects of the engagement in Afghanistan have said reaching out to Taliban moderates could help national reconciliation efforts in the war-torn country.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, noted Washington was supportive of any Afghan-led process of reconciliation.
"We've always said that Taliban reconciliation would only come on the condition of breaking from al-Qaida, abandoning violence, and abiding by the Afghan constitution," added White House spokesman Jay Carney during a press briefing. "And that remains the case."