Day One, dealing with the Taliban as if it is just another player on the world stage.
On Tuesday, June 18, the Taliban and the United States were set to engage in historic peace talks in Doha, Qatar, the goal of which is to begin to wind down the war that has been dragging on in Afghanistan. The U.S. is on the threshold of withdrawing from the region. The goal is to have Afghanistan and the Taliban work things out nicely together.
But the ceremonial opening of the office in Doha by the Taliban, was to have announced “the political office of the Taliban in Doha,” as had been agreed – or so the U.S. and Afghanistan had understood. Instead, it featured a large poster reading “the opening of the political office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Doha.”
The difference is huge – the name on the poster is what the Taliban called Afghanistan during the era it was in control, between 1996 and 2001, and was popularly understood by al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists to have been the nascent rebirth of the Global Califate.
In the State Department’s daily press briefing on Wednesday, this was the first item discussed by the Spokesperson, Jen Psaki. She explained that Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had immediately denounced the Taliban’s move as a deliberate provocation.
The Qatari government issued a statement clarifying that the name of the office is the Political Office of the Afghan Taliban and had the sign with the incorrect name in front of the door taken down.
Nonetheless, the Afghan government issued a statement suspending the U.S. bilateral security talks because of the Taliban’s efforts to portray itself as, once again, a sovereign nation within Afghanistan.
In addition, feelings were ruffled in Kabul because the initial talks in Doha were scheduled to take place between the U.S. and the Taliban, rather than between Karzai and the Taliban.
The press conference became testy as media representatives suggested that what happened is that the U.S. is in a hurry to get out of Afghanistan, it has failed to ensure that the Afghan government is situated to assume control of the situation, and that what had originall been a precondition for talks – the Taliban agreeing to stop terrorism and to cut ties with al Qaeda, suddenly became a future goal.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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