The announcement marked a major departure for a militant group that had long said it would not negotiate while foreign troops remained in Afghanistan. It offered a measure of hope that after years of missteps, a U.S.-sought negotiated settlement to the decade-long war is possible. If a Taliban office is established in Qatar, U.S. and Afghan interlocutors would have a formal venue to hold substantive talks with the group’s envoys after months of clandestine contact…

The Taliban statement’s omission of Karzai and his government puts the Obama administration in a difficult position. Even as they have held a half-dozen meetings with insurgent representatives outside Afghanistan over the past year, U.S. officials have continued to insist that “formal” talks would have to be led by the Afghans.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland sidestepped questions about the U.S. role in any forthcoming talks in Qatar. “If this is part of an Afghan-led, Afghan-supported process, and the Afghan government itself believes it can play a constructive role . . . then we will play a role in that, as well,” she said.