The Afghan National Resistance announced Tuesday it would be opening its first overseas political office in what is seen as a political gesture to the United States.
In a statement on its “Voice of Jihad” website, the Taliban said it had taken the initial steps necessary to open an office outside Afghanistan.
“We’re now prepared, while having a strong presence inside [Afghanistan], to have a political office outside for negotiations,” the statement said.
“And as part of this we have reached initial agreement with relevant sides, including Qatar.”
Opening a foreign political office raises the prospect of a negotiated peace agreement after more than ten years of American-led occupation in Afghanistan. The Taliban has previously insisted it would not talk until all foreign troops had left Afghan soil.
The rebels stipulated a prisoner exchange, including the release of Taliban inmates from the US-run detention facility Guantanamo Bay.
There are still some 130,000 US-led forces occupying Afghanistan. A complete withdrawal of Western combat troops from the country is scheduled for the end of 2014.
However, the United States and its NATO allies have been pressing for political solutions to ensure their interests in the country before they depart.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, largely viewed as an American puppet, has reportedly agreed to US-Taliban talks on condition his government not be left out of the process.
Karzai and US embassy officials, meanwhile, met on Tuesday with a delegation from Hezb-i-Islami, Afghanistan’s second largest resistance movement, led by former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
The September assassination of Karzai’s peace envoy, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, had previously derailed hopes of progress in talks between the Western-backed Karzai regime and Afghan freedom fighters.
The Karzai regime had previously accepted the notion of talks with the resistance on condition that there be no participation of Western governments without Karzai’s consent, leading several analysts to surmise that the puppet leader fears being abandoned by Washington in favor of the US striking a deal with the Taliban.