ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland -- Calling for an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process,” President
U.S. and Taliban officials announced separately Tuesday that they would hold their first formal meeting in coming days in
U.S. officials said the talks would involve a new group, the Taliban Political Commission, which they said was authorized by fugitive Taliban leader
“This is an important first step toward reconciliation, although it is a very early step,” Obama said as he wrapped up meetings here with leaders of the
In a statement, the Taliban said it would satisfy two preconditions set by Western officials. It said it would oppose letting terrorists threaten other countries from “Afghan soil,” as Osama bin Laden did when he launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. It also expressed support for an Afghan peace process and improved relations with the outside world.
A senior U.S. official, briefing reporters in Washington, said it was enough for the Taliban to distance inself from
Another senior administration official said the talks promised to be “complex, long and messy” and that success was far from assured.
The development came as the
In a ceremony in Kabul, the Afghan capital,
An hour before they spoke, a roadside bomb exploded in the Pul-e-Surkh area of west Kabul, killing three civilians. Its target, a prominent politician, survived. The bombing was the fifth high-profile lethal attack in six weeks in the heavily guarded city.
The latest attacks have cast new doubt on the readiness of Afghan troops to maintain security after NATO forces withdraw combat forces by the end of 2014. U.S. officials have long hoped some progress toward a negotiated settlement would help allay such concerns.
The Taliban statement made it clear that its fighters remained determined to unseat Karzai’s government and to “end the occupation” of NATO troops in the country.