After more than 11 years of war in Afghanistan, a country known as “the graveyard of empires” for its inability to be conquered and held, the White House announced Tuesday that it will sit down with the Taliban and try to work things out with words instead of bombs.

Working with the emir of Qatar, all parties have pre-negotiated the opening of an official Taliban office in Doha for the purposes of continued talks. An unnamed senior administration official said in a statement released by the White House that the Taliban agreed to “oppose the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries; and second, that they support an Afghan peace process.”

When asked by a reporter if the statement about Afghan soil meant that the Taliban had agreed to sever ties with al-Qaida, an official clarified, “We didn’t expect immediately for them to break ties with al Qaeda, because that’s an outcome of the negotiation process. So the statement that we expect today is this first step in distancing them, distancing the movement from international terrorism. But it’s not as far as will demand them to go at the end of the process.”

Just hours after news of the negotiations broke, four U.S. soldiers were killed by blind fire at Bagram air base near Kabul, Afghanistan.

The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai will also sit down with Taliban representatives in Doha, but that meeting will take place some time after the U.S. opens negotiations.

The unnamed officials who spoke with reporters repeated the phrase “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” to describe the upcoming negotiations and peace process and said that the Afghan government was prepared to handle not only negotiations with the Taliban, but the security of the country as well.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer.

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