Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The co-founder of the Taliban has been appointed to lead the group's political office in Qatar, as talks with U.S. negotiators to end the war in Afghanistan are giving way to new progress.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was released from prison in October, stemming from his capture by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence in 2010.
"This step has been taken to strengthen and properly handle the ongoing negotiations process with the United States," a Taliban statement said.
Peace negotiators have talked about an American withdrawal from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban's promise to prevent terrorists from operating freely in the country. U.S. forces arrived in Afghanistan almost immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
The Taliban was accused of allowing al-Qaida to flourish there in the years before it struck in New York City and Washington, D.C. The Taliban government's willingness to protect terror leader Osama bin Laden lead to the U.S. invasion.
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has led face-to-face meetings with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, where the group has a political office. One major sticking point in the discussions concerns the role of Afghanistan's current leadership.
Afghan government officials have said Kabul must be involved in any peace agreement with the Taliban, a proposition that's been summarily rejected by the group.
After more than 17 years of conflict, the Afghan government controls more than 65 percent of the population, but has authority over just 55 percent of the country's 407 districts -- a division of power that's given the Taliban considerable bargaining power.