The Taliban in Afghanistan said they would open a political liaison office in Qatar to facilitate peace negotiations. Washington said it supports reconciliation between the Taliban and the Western-backed government in Kabul provided the conservative Islamist group denounces terrorism and pledges its support for the rule of law in Afghanistan.
Jan Kubis, U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, said the war-weary Afghan people were ready to embrace comprehensive peace.
"It can be a successful Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process if it is based on wide participation, on representative participation, not only of political forces but eventually of civil society because it is for the people of the country," he said during a news conference in Kabul.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said last week that international engagement has opened Afghanistan to global markets and improved much of the country's infrastructure. Rural communities, however, are prone to conflict driven by pro- and anti-government groups.
Western forces are looking at 2014 to start pulling troops from Afghanistan, which would mark a turning point following nearly 15 years of military engagement.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]