Afghanistan today told foreign powers to take a back seat in talks with the Taliban and let Kabul lead the way, Reuters reports. Afghanistan's High Peace Council put its foot down after the US, Qatar, and Germany secretly set up an office for the Taliban in Qatar to continue negotiations. “Afghans must be in the lead in the talks,” an Afghan rep tells the AP. Afghanistan also wants the Taliban to sever ties with al-Qaeda and enact human rights reforms before talks continue.
The council will consent to the Qatar office, however, and approves the US giving up Guantanamo Bay prisoners for Taliban concessions. "In fact we have been demanding this for a while," an Afghan official says. "These are Afghan prisoners." The council also wants Pakistan's support because members of the Taliban reside there. The tensions between Washington and President Hamid Karzai highlight the difficulty of reaching a settlement with the Taliban before the West is scheduled to pull out most of its troops in 2014.