In an unprecedented step toward a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, the Taliban announced Tuesday that they will open a political office in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. The move was welcomed by the U.S. and by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had ruled out talks with the Taliban on Afghan soil after former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was spearheading reconciliation efforts, was killed by a suicide bomber last year. But can we really trust that the Taliban are ready to talk peace?
It is folly to trust the Taliban: The Taliban are still led by Mullah Muhammad Omar, who was Osama bin Laden's close confidant before 9/11, says Luke Hunt at The Diplomat. Omar is not an advocate of peace — he's "a major obstacle" to it. Let's get real: "Omar clearly can't be trusted, especially in light of the Taliban suicide attack that killed Rabbani just three months ago."
"Mullah Omar: Last man standing"
This move at least keeps peace hopes alive: This is a "breakthrough," says The Economist. The "idea of peace had seemed dead" after a recent surge in Taliban attacks, but apparently the U.S. kept it alive through secret talks. The Taliban have abandoned their insistence that they "would only countenance peace talks after foreign troops had quit Afghanistan," and now there's finally going to be a place where negotiators can go to talk to them. That's a long way from a peace deal, but it's a start.
"Dial 1 to speak to the Taliban"
Only time will tell: The Taliban's "olive branch" might be real, says the Baltimore Sun in an editorial, or it might just be "a ploy to secure the release of its captured fighters." Given the history of the Taliban's treachery, "the U.S. and its Afghan allies must proceed cautiously." We should certainly explore this latest inching toward peace, but we "can't afford to let up on efforts to continue weakening the enemy through drone strikes and night raids."
"The Taliban's olive branch"