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Burhanuddin Rabbani

The Taliban's olive branch

American officials are welcoming a Taliban statement that the Afghan insurgents will set up an office in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. The move is being seen as a first step toward peace talks aimed at reconciling the Taliban and the Western-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, something the U.S. has long sought to broker. A serious offer to negotiate would mark not only a departure from the group's previous refusal to engage in talks but also ease concerns over the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from the country by 2014.

The U.S. and its Afghan allies must proceed cautiously, however, given that previous peace overtures to the insurgents have come...