Mar 15, 2019 07:35 UTC
  • Afghanistan clashes with US over Taliban talks exclusion

The United States and Afghanistan have clashed publicly over Washington’s decision to exclude Kabul from its ongoing peace talks with the Taliban, a move that a senior Afghan official says is aimed at “delegitimizing” the Afghan government.

According to Press TV, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, who was on a visit to the US, said Thursday that US peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad either “doesn’t know how to negotiate” or has alternative objectives in mind other than peace.

"Knowing Ambassador Khalilzad’s history, his own personal history, he has ambitions in Afghanistan. He was wanting to run for president twice," Mohib said before meeting senior American officials in Washington.

"The perception in Afghanistan and people in government think that perhaps, perhaps all this talk is to create a caretaker government of which he will then become the viceroy," he said, referring to a politically loaded term in South Asia as it was the title of the colonial administrator of British-ruled India.

He warned that Khalilzad’s approach was weakening the Afghan government.

The comments were viewed as Kabul’s most strident public complaints to date over its absence from talks being held in Qatar.

The Taliban have reiterated opposition to direct talks with President Ashraf Ghani's administration in Kabul. Ghani has repeatedly stressed that no peace deal between the Taliban and the US could be finalized without involving his government.

Mohib’s comments did not go down well in Washington, with US Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale saying that he would communicate his side’s “displeasure" with Mohib once they meet.

"To the comments themselves, we don't believe they warrant a public response," US State Department Spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

On Tuesday, Khalizad said in a number of tweets that it was "clear all sides want to end the war."

The latest round of talks lasted 16 days and finished on Tuesday. Further talks are expected later this month.

US negotiators have been negotiating a ceasefire with the Taliban and their role in the country’s political future, including President Ashraf Ghani's government.

The Taliban's five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the US invasion in 2001 but 18 years on, Washington is seeking truce with the militants.

A senior Taliban commander, familiar with the talks, said the group will announce a ceasefire with the US only after foreign forces leave the country.

The Taliban refuses to engage in direct talks with Ghani's government, accusing it of being a US puppet.

ME

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