4 Killed in Afghanistan But Karzai Refuses American Involvement In Taliban Peace Talks

Afghanistan_0af11[1]Rahmat Gul/AP – Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks at a press conference during a ceremony at a military academy on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Afghan forces have taken over the lead from the U.S.-led NATO coalition for security nationwide, Karzai announced in the significant milestone in the 12-year war.

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday suspended negotiations with Washington over a security agreement that would regulate the presence of U.S. troops here beyond 2014, apparently angered by aspects of a Taliban announcement a day earlier that opened the door for peace talks between U.S. officials and the insurgent group.

The Taliban was sending “messages of a continuation of war and bloodshed,” said a statement from Karzai’s office. It said the Afghan government no longer plans to send envoys to monitor the U.S.-Taliban peace talks in Doha, Qatar, but remains willing to consider joining those talks should they be moved from Doha to Kabul.

Adding to the complexity of launching the talks, the Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed four American troops at Bagram Airfield.

In Berlin, President Obama acknowledged that “this is going to be a difficult process” but said the United States remains committed to moving it forward.“They’ve been fighting for a very long time. There’s enormous mistrust,” Obama said. “We still believe you have to have a parallel political track to at least look at the prospect of some sort of global reconciliation.”U.S. officials had worked for weeks with Qatar to have a clear understanding of what would be said during Tuesday’s Taliban press event, at which the insurgent group announced the opening of its Doha office and pledged not to launch attacks on outside countries from Afghan soil — a U.S. requirement for the talks to proceed.From Kabul, before the Taliban announcement, Karzai said he backed the talks in Doha as a necessary first step, but reiterated that his government must soon play a role in the discussion. The Taliban so far has refused to negotiate directly with Karzai’s government.

Both American and Afghan officials were taken aback, however, by two details of the Taliban event that had not been agreed on: The Taliban displayed the group’s flag during the event, and spoke in front of a banner that proclaimed, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

“The president is not happy with the name of the office. We oppose the title the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,’ because such a thing doesn’t exist,” Aimal Faizi, a Karzai spokesman, told Reuters. “The U.S. was aware of the president’s stance.”

Karzai has insisted that a Taliban political office in Doha would only be for the purposes of peace negotiations and would not purport to constitute any kind of alternative Afghan government. To him, the banner and the flag violated that requirement.

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