NATO soldiers board a helicopter after a security handover ceremony outside Kabul, June 18, 2013. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)
President Barack Obama warmly welcomed the announcement on Tuesday of fresh reconciliation talks between Afghanistan's government and the Taliban, as well as plans to launch a new round of direct negotiations between the insurgent force and the United States.
U.S. officials said one of the likely items on the U.S.-Taliban agenda would be the return of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network since 2009.
"This is an important first step toward reconciliation," Obama told reporters after a meeting with French President François Hollande on the sidelines of the G-8 summit of rich countries. "It's a very early step—we anticipate there will be a lot of bumps in the road—but the fact that the parties have an opportunity to talk and discuss Afghanistan's future I think is very important."
U.S. and Taliban negotiators will hold formal talks "in a couple of days" in the Gulf state of Qatar, where the Taliban will officially open an office on Tuesday,Read More »from Obama welcomes Taliban’s return to reconciliation talks, U.S. negotiations