The Taliban has opened its long-promised office in Doha, Qatar, where it will openly hold direct peace talks with the US, Taliban officials announced today at, of all things, a press conference. Top US officials tell the BBC that peace talks will begin within days, on the condition that the Taliban renounces violence and its ties to al-Qaeda and respects Afghanistan's constitutional protections on women and minorities.
Prisoner exchanges are expected to be a major issue at the talks, though US officials said they'd spend their initial meetings simply feeling out each others' agendas. The AP adds that Afghan President Hamid Karzai will pick up where the US leaves off, with an Afghan delegation heading to Qatar a few days later. Al-Jazeera points out that the move comes despite Karzai's past objections to talks held outside of Afghanistan; in a statement, the Taliban cited meeting with Afghans as a main goal of the new office. The announcements all come on the day that the US officially handed over security operations to Karzai's government. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)