US official: Taliban ignoring talks overtures

AP News
Posted: Jul 03, 2013 6:17 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Taliban won't join talks with the United States and Afghanistan because of a dispute over the name of its representative office in Qatar, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

The official said the Taliban never replied to an offer to meet U.S. diplomats in Doha on June 23 and are now resisting peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, as the Taliban previously had agreed. The official said the Taliban have taken those positions because they insist their facility in Qatar be called the "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" and be identified as such on an exterior sign. They also want to fly the same flag they flew when the ruled Afghanistan, the official said.

The United States and Afghanistan objected to the name, the sign and the flag when the office first opened in mid-June. They say an agreement brokered with the Taliban allows them to call the facility "The Political Office of the Taliban" or "The Political Office of the Taliban Movement," neither of which implies that it represents a sovereign government.

Qatari mediators got the Taliban to remove the sign and the flag but the official said the group was now insisting they be replaced before any talks could take place.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak by name about the matter, which has complicated U.S. efforts to plan and prepare for the withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan.

The official said the Taliban could call their office whatever they wanted internally and could even fly the flag or keep the sign provided that they were not able to be seen by the general public or presented to the media.