The United States is to hold direct peace talks with the Taliban in an effort to end the 12-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
The first meeting is set to take place on Thursday in the Qatar capital Doha, where the Taliban has just opened its first foreign office.
Announcing the move, the Taliban’s spokesman said the Islamist insurgency wanted a political solution that would bring about a just government and end foreign occupation.
The Afghan President Hamid Karzai will also send a delegation to the talks.
Prisoner exchanges are thought to be on the agenda for the first meeting, but it is likely to take weeks to explore all agendas.
Washington and NATO officials have played down any hopes of a swift breakthrough because they say the level of trust is low between the Afghan government and the Taliban.