U.S. brushes off claim of Taliban office

Sept. 14, 2011 at 12:59 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department deflected questions on that the Qatari government was allowing the Taliban to open a political headquarters there by year's end.

The Times of London this week claimed Washington backed a plan for the Taliban to open a political office in Qatar. The report notes that the plan coincides with efforts to start formal peace talks with the former leaders of Afghanistan.

Afghan and international leaders are touting a reconciliation and reintegration program under way as coalition forces consider a graduated drawdown from the country.

A Western official, who went unnamed and unquoted in the Times piece, said the Qatari office would be set up so the Taliban could be treated more like a political party.

It wouldn't, the official said, serve as any type of embassy or consulate.

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. She deflected repeated questions, however, on whether Washington sanctioned the Taliban's plans in Qatar.

"I'm not prepared to comment one way or the other on that one," she said.

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