Former President Hamid Karzai says that he sees a role for the Taliban after the war in a future, peaceful Afghanistan.
Karzai said five Taliban leaders freed from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2014, in exchange for American army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, are "good people," and should participate in negotiations to end the 17-year war.
“The majority of them I know personally, and they are good people, so I hope that this appointment will be good news for Afghanistan and for peace in Afghanistan. And we will work with them by all means towards that objective,” Karzai said.
Karzai made the comments during an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday and said he knows some of the five freed Taliban personally.
Those five are now part of the Taliban political office in Qatar.
Karzai, who still wields considerable influence in today’s Afghanistan, also supports talks between the Taliban and the United States - but only as a step toward direct talks between the insurgents and all Afghans.
“Now that they (Americans) announced a new effort for peace, we will back them and we will support them in this effort and let's hope it succeed, and let's hope it is genuine, but there must be a clarity. Peace we want, and a sovereign Afghanistan we want. We want no deals between foreign governments on Afghanistan,” he said.
In an unexpected development, Pakistan also bowed to a long-standing Afghan Taliban demand that it releases its senior leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had been in jail in Pakistan since 2010.
At the time, Baradar was reportedly jailed after bypassing Pakistan to open independent peace talks with Karzai, who was then Afghanistan's president.
Baradar's release followed Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad's first visit to Pakistan since being appointed Washington's peace envoy.
Baradar issued an audio message after his release to the Taliban.
The Pashto-language message, heard by an Associated Press reporter, seemed to indicate he was preparing for a role in the insurgent movement moving forward.