Afghan media reports say the United States is in contact with the Taliban in Qatar to persuade the militant group to sit at the negotiating table with the Afghan government. The talks are aimed at pushing the Taliban toward a negotiated agreement with Kabul as Washington tries to prepare the ground for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, Weesa daily cited political analyst, Vahid Mojdeh, as saying. The US-Taliban talks formally started in January 2012, but the militants left the negotiating table in March, citing Washington’s failure to fulfill the conditions for peace negotiations to proceed. On Monday, Karzai, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari concluded trilateral talks held in London and vowed to work to reach a peace deal within six months. In a statement, the leaders also voiced support for the opening of an office in the Qatari capital, Doha, for the Taliban to hold talks. They also urged the militants to join the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, however, on Wednesday dismissed the London talks and said the conference and other “horse trading” were “the real obstacles of effective and fruitful negotiations between the factual sides.”The Taliban have repeatedly refused to negotiate directly with the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, demanding that any negotiations be held between the militants and the United States. Meanwhile, Karzai and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg have inked an agreement on strategic partnership between Norway and Afghanistan. Under the deal signed on Tuesday, Norway will continue to provide development assistance, and the Afghan authorities will intensify their efforts in the areas of human rights, women’s rights, improving governance and combating corruption. MRS/HMV/SL