The United States on Tuesday welcomed the Taliban's decision to open an office in Qatar and senior US officials said they hoped to meet with their Afghan foes within days.
"I think the US will have its first formal meeting with the Taliban, and the first meeting with the Taliban for several years, in a couple of days in Doha," a senior US official told reporters.
"I would expect that to be followed up within days by a meeting between the Taliban and the High Peace Council, which is the structure that President Karzai has set up for talks of this nature," he added.
The Taliban opened a political office in Doha on Tuesday, planning to hold talks with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai's government on ending the conflict that erupted when the Islamist group was ousted from power in 2001 by US troops sent in after the September 11 terror attacks.
Confirming that the United States will also use the office to communicate with the guerrillas, who are still battling US-led NATO and Afghan troops on the ground, the official said the road ahead would be difficult.