Friday, March 16, 2012

Taliban suspend 'dialogue' with US

By BILL ROGGIO  March 15, 2012

Today the Taliban formally announced the "suspension of dialogue" with the US, while maintaining in their statement that the Taliban office established in Qatar had been created to discuss a prisoner exchange and to inform the international community about the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."

The Taliban's suspension of talks with the US constitutes the latest setback in a series of recent events threatening NATO's timetable for leaving Afghanistan by 2014: the burning of Korans by US military personnel, the murder of 16 Afghan civilians by a rogue US soldier, and now today's insistence by President Hamid Karzai that NATO forces immediately withdraw from the Afghan countryside to large bases.

The Taliban statement was released today at Voice of Jihad, the official website of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," which is run by Mullah Omar. [The full statement is reproduced below.]

The Taliban said the US failed to free five senior commanders who have been held at Guantanamo Bay, and accused the US of misrepresenting the purpose for the establishment of the office in Qatar. The Taliban said the office in Qatar was to be used for "preliminary talks with the occupying enemy over the exchange of prisoners" as well as to communicate the Taliban's intent to fight NATO forces until they withdraw from Afghanistan.

"The Americans initially agreed upon taking practical steps regarding the exchange of prisoners and to not oppose our political office but with the passage of time, they turned their backs on their promises and started initiating baseless propaganda portraying the envoys of the Islamic Emirate as having commenced multilateral negotiations for solving the Afghan dilemma," today's statement said.

The Taliban also denied being involved in "multilateral" talks with the Afghan government, led by President Karzai, "who can not even make a single political decision without the prior consent of the Americans."

"[T]he Islamic Emirate has not discussed any other issue apart from the two aforementioned (i.e. the induction of an office and the exchange of prisoners) and neither have we accepted any other condition with any other side nor have we conducted any talks with Karzai administration."

In conclusion, the Taliban claimed that the organization "has enduring patience and long-term Jihadi strategies against the malicious plots of the enemy and enjoys the ceaseless support of its believing nation."

The reasons for the Taliban's suspension of talks remain somewhat unclear, despite the statement. The US recently allowed an Afghan delegation to visit the five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo; the delegation obtained the consent of the five detainees to a transfer to Qatari custody.

A possible roadblock could be a US demand for the return of Bowie Bergdahl, a US soldier who has been held captive by the Taliban since 2009, but no mention of any such demand has been made in recent statements by either the Taliban or the US government.

Another reason for the Taliban's statement today is their dismay that the establishment of the Qatar office has been treated as a mere gesture in peace negotiations rather than as its intended purpose, the recognition of the Taliban as a political entity with its own base.

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