KABUL, 23 JUNE: The Taliban today rejected reports that they may cancel peace talks with the USA and the Afghan governments over criticism of the insurgents’ office that opened in Qatar last week.
A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan rejected a New York Times story published yesterday that quoted an unnamed rebel official saying the insurgents were determined to keep the office’s sign and flag that triggered fury in Kabul. The sign used the formal name of “Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan” from the rebels’ 1996-2001 government, and the white Taliban flag was seen by many Afghans as a provocative reminder of the cruelties of Taliban rule. The opening of the Qatar office was intended as a first step towards a peace deal as the US-led Nato combat mission ends next year, but the Afghan
government accused the rebels of posing as a government-in-exile. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said today that the anonymous “Taliban official” quoted in the New York Times did not represent the movement’s views.
“(The Taliban) has its own spokespersons who provides information to the media,” Mujahid said in a statement. “Anyone except these spokespersons giving information, it would not be (information) from the Islamic Emirate. “The enemy for long time have given statements in their interests citing unknown persons (as Taliban spokespersons), an example of which is an interview published on the New York Times.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to Qatar yesterday, warned that Washington could call on the Taliban to close the office if the rebels failed to live up to their side of peace efforts. “It is our hope that this could ultimately be an important step in reconciliation if it’s possible. We know that it may well not be possible,” Mr Kerry told reporters in Doha. If the Taliban do not address concerns: “We may have to consider whether or not the office has to be closed.”
Afghanistan’s government today said it is still waiting for a full explanation of how the Taliban were allowed to open an office in Qatar that was akin to an embassy, flying the militant group’s flag and using its formal name from the years it ruled the country. But foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said the government remains willing to send a delegation to Doha to negotiate with the Taliban once it has its explanation, as well as assurances that the office will be nothing more than a place for talks. agencies