Afghan President Hamid Karzai is one of last remaining roadblocks to U.S. peace talks with the Taliban, which could ramp up in the coming weeks, according to reports citing U.S. officials and the Taliban.
The two parties came close to a deal in December, but talks collapsed over Karzai's objections. Now, U.S. officials say that the negotiations could resume, with Karzai’s blessing, in a matter of weeks, The Washington Post reports. Marc Grossman, the senior U.S. diplomat leading the series of meetings last year, is meeting with Karzai late next week, the officials said.
The Taliban is also ready to take up peace talks, the group said in a statement e-mailed to the Associated Press, but "this understanding does not mean a surrender from jihad and neither is it connected to an acceptance of the constitution of the stooge Kabul administration," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in the statement.
The deal that collapsed in December would have included the transfer of five Afghans from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay to house arrest in Qatar, where the Taliban was to open a representative office. In addition to a statement renouncing international terrorism, the Taliban was to agree to respecting the Afghan construction government—one of the main sticking points for the group.
The obstacle, U.S officials told The Post, is that the Taliban is more comfortable dealing with the U.S. and is “not willing to sit down with the Afghan government.”