For the Taliban, the Doha talks are more than simply an opportunity to chat with Washington officials. “Opening the office will give us a window onto the world,” says Zabihullah, a moderate senior Taliban political operative. “We hope it will lead to a wide open door for us.” According to him and other Taliban officials, the insurgency hopes through its Doha office to improve relations with the super wealthy Gulf countries, the European Union, the United Nations, and other international organizations. “We want to make relations with the international community, end the foreign invasion and bring peace and security to Afghanistan,” adds Zabihullah.
That is exactly what President Karzai fears: that the Taliban will turn the Doha talks into a forum to give the insurgency widespread political legitimacy. And many other Afghans are skeptical of the Taliban’s motives. They worry the insurgents won’t be flexible but instead adhere to their uncompromising positions of the past.
“Opening an office is one thing, but acting in the office properly and constructively is another,” says an Afghan government diplomat in the Gulf, who doesn’t want to be named. “What will we do if the Taliban keep riding their old donkey in their new office?” Like most Afghans, he believes that Pakistan and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency will be calling the shots from behind the scenes. “There are ISI guys in Doha who might sabotage any proper peace deal,” the Afghan diplomat adds. “We simply doubt the sincerity of the Taliban and Pakistan.”