KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban have denied that they had obtained permission from Pakistan to send representatives to Qatar to participate in initial talks that U.S. officials had hoped would lead to a peace deal in Afghanistan, saying they had acted independently.
In a statement posted on a Taliban website, the militant group said it made "decisions of its own likings in all matters and affairs in light of Islamic principles and national interests".
"We would like to once categorically state that the representatives of Islamic Emirate did not go to Qatar with the permission of Pakistan," the group said in the statement posted on Thursday, using the term the Taliban use to describe themselves.
"The Islamic Emirate is completely free and independent in all of its affairs."
In an interview with Reuters this week, Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, said his government supported a possible peace agreement in Afghanistan, and said it had allowed some Taliban to travel to the Gulf for that purpose.
The Obama administration's hopes for soon establishing peace talks between the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban faded in March when the reclusive Taliban leadership, believed to be based in Pakistan, suspended their participation in preliminary discussions run by U.S. diplomats.
U.S. officials had hoped their initial meetings with Taliban representatives would set in motion the transfer of former Taliban officials held in Guantanamo Bay military prison to Qatar, the release of a U.S. soldier held by the Taliban, and eventually authentic peace talks among the Afghan parties.
"The preliminary and confidence-building talks done by the representatives of Islamic Emirate with those of the United States of America in Qatar were initiated and then halted under the order of its leader," the Taliban said.
When they announced their suspension, the Taliban blamed the United States for an inconsistent negotiating position.
While the Afghan government says it has held its own, separate meetings with Taliban representatives, the militant group's leadership says it will not engage in negotiations with what it deems an illegitimate, "puppet" regime.
In a separate statement issued on Friday, the Taliban said they had sent a representative to an academic conference on Afghanistan's future in Japan this week, but said the purpose was only to "clarify" its positions.
"As long as the matter with America (talks which are currently suspended) is not addressed, talking with the administration of Karzai is pointless," the group said.
(Reporting By Mirwais Harooni; Writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Robert Birsel)