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Afghan talks apparently delayed after Karzai's complaints

June 20, 2013|By Hashmat Baktash and Mark Magnier
  • A man believed to be Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, left, is shown in December 2008. A Taliban spokesman told the Associated Press on Thursday that the insurgents are ready to hand over the captive American in exchange for five of their senior operatives being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
A man believed to be Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, left, is shown in December 2008.… (Associated Press )

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Peace negotiations between U.S. officials and Afghanistan’s insurgent Taliban movement expected to begin Thursday apparently were delayed after the South Asian nation’s leader lashed out about how the talks were unfolding.

President Hamid Karzai’s office on Wednesday expressed concern that his administration could be sidelined in any talks that didn’t include his government as he lashed out at Washington without elaboration for what it termed “contradictory” U.S. behavior toward Kabul.

The Afghan government said it was pulling out of separate negotiations with the Americans over a security agreement that would cover U.S.-Afghan relations after the planned exit of NATO forces from his country by the end of next year.

Karzai also made clear his displeasure at a sign board at the Taliban’s newly opened office in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the peace talks are scheduled to be held. The sign read “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” and was accompanied by a display of white Taliban flags, suggesting the insurgent group represented Afghanistan.

In a bid to mollify the Afghan president and put fragile U.S.-Afghan relations back on track, Secretary of State John F. Kerry called Karzai twice within 24 hours and reassured the Afghan leader that the sign and flags were removed and that the U.S. is committed to all agreements with his government, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.

In a statement, the Karzai administration asked Kerry to publicize widely that the sign board was removed.

“The phone call may settle down president Karzai a little bit,” said Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based analyst. “But in general, the name of the Taliban’s Qatar office received a very negative reaction.”

In another development, a senior Taliban official on Thursday offered to trade an American soldier held since 2009, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, for five senior Taliban operatives imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay as a “conciliatory gesture,” according to the Associated Press.

In a telephone interview from his Doha office, Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail told the news service that Bergdahl “is, as far as I know, in good condition.”

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