KABUL/ISLAMABAD, 20 JUNE: Afghan President Hamid Karzai today mulled his response to US efforts to repair damaged ties after a public spat over the Taliban opening an office in Qatar for peace talks.
Mr Karzai and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke twice over telephone after the Afghan government became enraged that the office was opened in a blaze of publicity and US officials were apparently about to arrive for talks.
The office used the formal name of “Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan” from the rebels’ 1996-2001 government, and a Taliban spokesman at the opening Press conference declined to say they supported the peace process. “John Kerry assured that the Qatari government has removed the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ sign from the Taliban office and the office is for peace talks only,” a statement from Karzai’s office said late yesterday. Mr Karzai told Mr Kerry that Afghan public opinion was “extremely negative” to the way in which the Taliban office had been unveiled in an event that many experts described as an international publicity coup for the rebels. “The opening of this office has made the Taliban look strong, the Americans desperate and President Karzai angry,” the Afghanistan Analysts Network said in a briefing note.
With the US-led Nato combat mission due to end next year, US officials are determined to resume talks with the Taliban after tentative contacts limited to a prisoner swap collapsed last year. But Mr Karzai, the only leader of Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled in the 2001 US-led invasion, opposes bilateral US-Taliban talks. Yesterday he broke off ongoing Afghan-US talks on an agreement that would allow Washington to maintain soldiers in Afghanistan after the Nato combat mission ends.

Ceasefire on the cards, says Taliban negotiator
A key Afghan Taliban negotiator has said a ceasefire may be on the agenda during talks with the USA in the Qatari capital of Doha, where the militants have opened a political office. Muhammad Naeem, who heads the Taliban’s political office, said issues like a ceasefire could be discussed after the formal talks get underway. “Ceasefire could be discussed during the talks,” he said.
He indicated a major shift in the group’s policy by hinting at possible talks with the government-backed Afghan High Peace Council. agencies