June 19, 2013

Karzai suspends talks with U.S. over Taliban move

Amir Shah and David Rising / The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan president on Wednesday suspended talks with the United States on a new security deal to protest the way his government was being left out of initial peace negotiations with the Taliban meant to find ways to end the nearly 12-year war.

click image to enlarge

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks at a press conference during a ceremony at a military academy on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, as Afghan forces take over the lead from the U.S.-led NATO coalition for security nationwide.

AP

The move by Hamid Karzai could derail the peace process even before it has begun.

In a terse statement from his office, Karzai said negotiations with the U.S. on what American and coalition security forces will remain in the country after 2014 have been put on hold.

The statement followed an announcement Tuesday by the U.S. and the Taliban that they would pursue bilateral talks in Qatar before the Afghan government was brought in.

"In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations, currently underway in Kabul between Afghan and U.S. delegations on the bilateral security agreement," Karzai's statement said.

His spokesman was not immediately reachable for questions, and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said nobody was available for immediate comment.

Though the Taliban have dismissed Karzai as an American puppet for years, they indicated Tuesday when opening a new political office in Doha, Qatar, that they would be willing to talk with the Afghan leader.

But both the American side and the Taliban said they would first meet together before any talks with the Afghanistan government.

In another incident highlighting the fragile situation in Afghanistan, only hours after announcing they would hold talks with the U.S., the Taliban claimed responsibility Wednesday for an attack on the Bagram Air Base in which four American troops were killed.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the insurgents fired two rockets into the base outside the Afghan capital, Kabul, late on Tuesday. American officials confirmed the base had come under attack by indirect fire — likely a mortar or rocket — and that four U.S. troops were killed.

Also Tuesday, five Afghan police officers were killed at a security outpost in Helmand province by apparent Taliban infiltrators — the latest in a string of so-called "insider attacks" that have shaken the confidence of the nascent Afghan security forces.

The opening of a Taliban political office in Doha with the intention of starting peace talks was a reversal of months of failed efforts to start negotiations while Taliban militants intensified a campaign targeting urban centers and government installations across Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama cautioned that the peace talks with the Taliban would be neither quick nor easy but that their opening a political office in Doha was an "important first step toward reconciliation" between the Islamic militants and the government of Afghanistan.

In setting up the office, the Taliban said they were willing to use all legal means to end what they called the occupation of Afghanistan — but did not say they would immediately stop fighting.

American officials said the U.S. and Taliban representatives will hold bilateral meetings in the coming days. Karzai's High Peace Council had been expected to follow up with its own talks with the Taliban a few days later but it was now not clear whether that would happen.

The Taliban announcement followed a milestone handover in Afghanistan earlier Tuesday as Afghan forces formally took the lead from the U.S.-led NATO coalition for security nationwide. It marked a turning point for American and NATO military forces, which will now move entirely into a supporting role.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)