Afghanistan’s Taliban guerrillas have suspended talks with U.S. officials that aimed at opening formal peace negotiations, the movement said in a statement.
The insurgent group, which is fighting U.S. forces and the American-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, has halted its plans to open an office in the Arab state of Qatar, where peace talks with the Americans were envisioned, the group said in a statement e-mailed by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed. A U.S. negotiator had in a recent meeting presented conditions for talks that “were not only unacceptable but also in contradiction with the earlier agreed-upon points,” it said.
“The Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend all talks with Americans taking place in Qatar from today onwards until the Americans clarify their stance,” the Taliban said in the statement, without specifying the point at issue.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. would wait to see how the situation plays out. “We have to see where this goes now,” Nuland said today to reporters in Washington. Referring to the Taliban statements, she said it isn’t clear “whether they’re representative of the entire group, whether after feelings calm there is a way to get back to it, we’ll just have to see.”
Afghan to Afghan
The U.S. goal has been to facilitate Afghan-to-Afghan discussions by getting the government and the Taliban to the same table, Nuland said. “We still feel that if there is a process that can be supported, that we ought to do that,” she said. “We remain prepared to continue these discussions.”
Obama administration officials have said in the past year they were holding meetings with the Taliban as the U.S. draws down its forces in Afghanistan and hands security duties to Afghan army and police forces. The guerrilla movement said in January it reached an initial agreement with Qatar to open an office in the Gulf state to facilitate negotiations.
The U.S. is considering the transfer of five Taliban prisoners to Qatar from its Guantanamo Bay military prison to encourage those talks, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in Washington Feb. 2.
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