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Taliban Opens Political Office, Willing To Conduct Peace Talks with Afghanistan

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After 12 years of brutal warfare, the Taliban is finally offering to participate in peace talks with Afghanistan and the United States. The announcement was made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday just hours after Afghanistan officially took over control from the United States-led NATO security coalition.   

Taliban officials have finally opened up the long-promised political office in Doha, Qatar, as Obama administration officials confirmed, which will serve as the location of the peace talks. Opening up the political office is a huge step forward for the insurgent group, which has been incredibly difficult to compromise with because it did not operate like a traditional government or organization, but rather more as a rebel camp.

The Taliban also held a much out of character press conference Tuesday to announce the opening of the office.

The United States and Afghan officials have required that, in order for peace talks to be productive, the Taliban must be willing to recognize Afghanistan’s constitution as well as renounce al-Qaeda and other violent terrorist groups.

The United States and other NATO forces have officially moved into a supporting role for the Afghan government, which has drastically strengthened over the last few years despite the still volatile climate in the country. The United States plans to withdraw all forces during the next 18 months.

"We are hopeful that if the opening of the office is today or if tomorrow the negotiation for peace starts sooner between the High Peace Council and the Taliban," Karzai told reporters, anxious to start the peace talks. The Taliban has long been against officially speaking with the Afghan government and referred to Afghan officials as American puppets. The transition of the country back into Afghan hands will undoubtedly help the talks be more productive.

Since 2009, Afghan National Security Forces have drastically strengthened — alliance training has turned the 40,000-person force of six years ago into 352,000 better trained military personnel.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the coalition will help militarily if and when needed but will no longer plan, execute or lead operations.

"Ten years ago, there were no Afghan national security forces," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO Secretary-General. "Five years ago, Afghan forces were a fraction of what they are today. Now you have 350,000 Afghan troops and police. A formidable force. And time and again, we have seen them dealing quickly and competently with complex attacks. Defeating the enemies of Afghanistan, and defending and protecting the Afghan people." 

According to Obama administration officials, the United States will help Afghanistan initially in the peace talks, but will leave the majority of the conversation up to Afghanistan and the Taliban. 

Sources: Newser, Al-Jazeera, AP