The US and Qatar have made the formal decision of supporting a Taliban office in Doha. Afghan officials have confirmed the news, but President Karzai is not happy for being kept in dark about the formal arrangement. Afghan Ambassador to Doha has been called to Kabul in protest. Senior aides of President Karzai say the decision is a push by 'westerners', not an Afghan Government initiative, though they support a Taliban representation outside Afghanistan.
Reportedly the "Taliban political office" will be a diplomatic mission with formal privileges but not all the protections for a diplomatic mission. Former Mullah Omar secretary Tayyab Agha has reportedly met US and Qatari officials in Doha last week and the final decision has been approved. Media rumors mention name of Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Islamabad to lead the mission in Doha. However, it is yet to be confirmed.
It seems that President Karzai is angry about being kept in total darkness about the meetings between Tayyab Agha and American officials. He has been promoting the mantra of an "Afghan-led" and "Afghan-owned" peace process with the Taliban. Ambassador Khalid Ahmad Zikriya has been called back to Kabul for "consultation", as said by Foreign Ministry officials. But the envoy is called in protest by the government for being kept in dark.
A formal Taliban office in Doha with diplomatic privileges will be an international recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. If the Taliban are really interested and honest about a peace talks, why they need an office in Qatar, or any other country? Will their leadership based in Quetta and Karachi be independent of Pakistan's influence?
Even if the elements of Quetta Shura have approved of this move, what will be the guarantee that it will end violence in case of an eventual deal with the Taliban leadership? The fact that Mullah Omar and his Quetta Shura has lost influence on insurgent commanders on ground is apparent from their statements asking militants to avoid attacks on civilians, but we see bomb blasts and IED targeting innocent civilians every other day. New actors have already established a hold on the insurgent battlefield.
The proper, transparent and acceptable way for this process is to be led by the United Nations. It will not lead to a peace when stakeholders bypass one or another actor. The US is making a grave mistake with a formal recognition of Taliban office in any other place outside Afghanistan.