KABUL, Afghanistan — An ex-Taliban envoy said on Thursday that he had no knowledge of plans by the Afghan insurgents to set up a political office in Qatar, even though media reports billed him as a potential chief of a possible Taliban mission in the tiny Gulf state.
By opening an office, the Taliban would indicate a willingness to talk peace after 10 years of war in Afghanistan and signal their intention to try and find a political solution to an insurgency that has cost the lives of thousands.
Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, said he was unaware of such an office being planned. A top member of the Afghanistan peace council, ex-Taliban official Arsala Rahmani, said he was also unaware that such an office was about to open.
Their remarks follow reports in an Indian newspaper, The Hindu, quoting unnamed Indian diplomatic sources, that said work was being finalized on a Taliban office in Qatar that Zaeef may run.
Zaeef told The Associated Press that he had not heard that plans were being finalized for the office in Qatar or that he was being considered to staff it. "I'm not aware of that," Zaeef said.
Afghanistan recalled its ambassador to Qatar on Wednesday, the same day the newspaper published the story, but it is unclear if it is related to the report.
The ministry did not give a reason for recalling Khalid Ahmad Zakaria from the Qatari capital of Doha, but said Kabul values ties with Qatar and that diplomatic communications would continue.
The ministry could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday about whether recalling the ambassador was linked to The Hindu report.
Meanwhile, Rahmani said the peace council, a group of about 70 influential Afghans and former Taliban appointed by President Hamid Karzai to try and reconcile with the insurgents, was busy trying to find a new leader.
"These days we are involved in appointing a new head of the peace council," said Rahmani, who once served as deputy minister of higher education in the Taliban regime.
The former head of the peace council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated on Sept. 20. Rabbani, a former president of Afghanistan, was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a peace emissary from the Taliban.
After his death, Karzai said informal peace efforts would not resume until the Taliban established an official address.