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Afghan President Says He Supports Talks With Taliban

Afghanistan's president said his country would back a deal, which might allow the Taliban to open an office in Qatar where they could hold peace talks with the United States and Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan agrees with negotiations between United States of America and the Taliban which will result in the establishment of an office for Taliban in Qatar," President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday.

The AP adds:

"It said the government agrees with the establishment of the office because it could lead to an end of the bloody Afghan conflict.

"The likelihood that the Taliban will remain a potent fighting force after most foreign forces leave by the end of 2014 is driving the U.S. and NATO to seek even an incomplete bargain with the insurgents that would keep them talking with the Kabul government.

"On Tuesday, the Taliban announced that they had reached a preliminary understanding to open the representative office, an unprecedented step toward peace negotiations that might lead to a winding down of the 10-year conflict."

The AFP spoke to some experts who seemed to agree that news of the talks bodes well for the country.

"Until yesterday the Taliban were not even talking about talks. But now they say they are prepared to open an office in Qatar," Giran Hiwad, of the Kabul-based think-tank Afghanistan's Analyst Network, told AFP. "This is definitely a positive step towards peace."

That said, The Christian Science Monitor predicts a bumpy road for talks. It points to the announcement from the Taliban as initial proof. In one paragraph they say they are ready to "come to an understanding with other nations," and in another say reports of negotiations are unfounded.

The Monitor reports:

"The Taliban, after all, are primarily driven by nationalist sentiment, the desire to drive out foreign forces.

"Years of drone attacks and Humvee patrols have hardened the attitudes of some Afghans, and the inefficacy of the Karzai government to extend its authority and governmental benefits beyond Kabul has left many other Afghans ambivalent, at best.

"All this will make the Taliban a very prickly partner in discussions, prone to demands that both the US and Karzai governments may find unreasonable."

"History shows," the paper adds, "they're also likely to test the patience of the U.S."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.