(CNSNews.com) – The Taliban, which harbored al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the lead up to the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001, will have an office in Afghanistan and engage in direct talks with the democratic government there, President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai affirmed at a joint White House news conference Friday.
“Ultimately security gains must be matched by political progress, so we’ve recommitted our nations to a reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” Obama said. “President Karzai updated me on the Afghan government’s road map to peace, and today we agreed that this process should be advanced by the opening of a Taliban office to facilitate talks.”
Karzai agreed this would be an important step for the peace process.
“We also agreed on the steps that we should be taking in the peace process, which is of highest priority to Afghanistan,” Karzai said. “We agreed on allowing a Taliban office.”
Karzai added, “The Taliban will engage in direct talks with the representatives of the Afghan high council for peace.”
Obama and his Afghanistan counterpart talked about the U.S. plans to withdraw most U.S. military forces from the country by next year, but maintain a U.S. presence for training and assisting Afghan forces and to assist in targeted counterterrorism efforts. The major difference, the leaders said, is that the Afghan government will take the lead. There are now 66,000 U.S. troops there, the Associated Press reported.
Later during the press conference, Obama talked about Taliban, which governed the country then harboring of al Qaeda before it was overthrown by U.S. forces.
“We went into Afghanistan, because 3,000 Americans were viciously murdered by a terrorist organization that was operating openly and at the invitation of those who were then ruling Afghanistan,” Obama said.
“It was absolutely the right thing to do for us to go after that organization, to go after the host government that had aided and abetted or at least allowed for these attacks to take place,” the president continued.
“Because of the heroic work of our men and women in uniform and because of the cooperation and sacrifice of Afghans who had also been brutalized by that then-host government, we achieved our central goal – or have come very close to achieving our central goal, which is to decapacitate al Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can’t attack us again,” Obama added.