No Direct Contact with Taliban after Doha: US
WASHINGTON – The United States has had no direct contact with the Taliban after the collapse of the Doha round of talks last year, a senior official said on Friday, acknowledging there has been no substantial progress. “So far that (talks with the Taliban) hasn’t happened in any substantial way. There are informal discussions not involving the United States. We haven’t had any direct contacts with the Taliban,” said a senior State Department official on condition of anonymity.
“There hasn’t been what President Karzai would like to see which a full-fledged peace process is. I don’t know whether that’s achievable in the short term. It’s something we’d like to see,” the official added. Insisting that the Karzai government should sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with it as soon as possible, the officials noted that conditioning BSA signing on the progress of talks with Taliban is unlikely to produce desired result.
“The office is still closed. The Taliban were insisting on calling it the Office of the Islamic Emirate, and having a flag that suggested they represented a country or a government in exile rather than a political movement. That was unacceptable both to us and to Karzai. We haven’t moved past that obstacle, although we’ve tried,” the official said.
Acknowledging that the US has had some discussions with Saudi Arabia on reconciliation, the official said the Saudis are prepared to help if there’s something specific they can do. “But I don’t get the sense that there’s anything specific at this point that they’re about to do. I don’t know that they have any particular influence with the Taliban,” the official said.
“We hope they’ll eventually be persuaded to do so. We thought they almost came to that point back in June in Doha, so we haven’t given up and if there are formulas, different locations that make this possible, we’re not opposed to it. But I don’t at this point, frankly, foresee any early breakthroughs, much as we would like to promote some,” the senior State Department official said.
The Taliban, the official said wants to replace the current constitutional order. “The current constitutional order is coming up against a big test. The first election in which a sitting leader isn’t running. Karzai was made a leader before there was an election, then he won two elections, and now he’s stepping aside. So this is a major hurdle for Afghanistan’s constitutional order,” the official said.
“The Taliban would like it to stumble. Would like the election to go badly. Would like the constitutional order not to be strengthened and consolidated, but rather weakened. So they don’t really have an incentive to lend prestige to a constitutional order that they’re trying to undermine,” the official insisted. (PAN)