Tag Archives: Qatar

Struggling to move forward

http://www.hindustantimes.com/editorial-views-on/Edits/Struggling-to-move-forward/Article1-1081625.aspx

Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 24, 2013

It was telling that the storm over Washington’s attempts to hold open talks with the Taliban in Qatar all but drowned out the maiden Indo-US strategic dialogue of US secretary of state John Kerry. India and the US are now clearly moving apart on the issue of Afghanistan. The Barack Obama

administration is determined to have the US military withdraw from Afghanistan at all costs — including allowing Pakistan to broker a deal that would allow the Taliban to govern in Kabul.

India is strongly opposed to any talk of any future Afghan government that includes the Taliban seeing such a development as a major threat to its security and a fillip for the worst elements in Pakistan. The question is whether the nascent Indo-US strategic partnership can survive differences over Afghanistan — and thus Pakistan.

In a mature strategic relationship, it is not uncommon for partner nations to disagree fundamentally over specific issues while maintaining the larger relationship. France is a treaty ally of the US but has an unusually contentious relationship with the sole superpower.

One should expect India, whose relationship with the US is far more informal and recent, to have its fair share of differences with Washington. The Indo-US relationship is strengthening and deepening in a whole host of other areas.

At the strategic dialogue here, the two largest democracies see eye-to-eye on regions like East Asia and the Indian Ocean and in areas like energy and counterterrorism.

The two countries have dozens of dialogues on every conceivable topic — the kind of interaction that would have been inconceivable even a decade ago.

Yet it is clear that the initial expectations of the Indo-US relationship have not been fulfilled. It would be too much to expect something as large as the Indo-US civil nuclear deal to once again animate relations.

And much of the quiet in areas like defence is because of the bureaucratic hurdles both sides have thrown up against each other. Economic difficulties in both nations have taken the steam out of bilateral trade and investment, leaving only a residue of disputes and protectionist measures.

But what has muddied the waters the most has been the geopolitical uncertainty that has infected both countries. Obama initially flirted with China, went back and forth on Afghanistan, and now makes India wonder about where the US is going with the Persian Gulf.

New Delhi has since been reassured about the US commitment to the Asia-Pacific but believes its worst fears about Afghanistan may be coming true. Until these brushes on the larger canvas are made clearer to the satisfaction of both sides, the Indo-US relationship will struggle to move forwards in the smaller, tactical areas.

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Afghan Taliban claim deadly U.S. attack at Bagram Air Base

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/asia/2013/06/19/Afghan-Taliban-claim-deadly-U-S-attack-hours-after-peace-moves-.html

Wednesday, 19 June 2013
A U.S. soldier at Bargram Air Base, about 60km from Kabul. (Photo courtesy: U.S. Air Force)
Al Arabiya

The Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the killings of four U.S. forces in an overnight attack on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, just hours after Washington said its officials would meet the insurgents for talks.

“Last night two big rockets were launched at Bagram (air base) which hit the target. Four soldiers are dead and six others are wounded. The rockets caused a major fire,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP news agency by telephone.

A U.S. official told Reuters news agency late Tuesday that insurgents attacked the base with some kind of indirect fire, leaving open the possibility it was hit by rockets or mortar rounds.

Earlier, President Barack Obama had welcomed the planned talks between the U.S. and the Taliban as an “important first step” but warned of a long and bumpy road ahead as Afghan and NATO troops continue to battle a 12-year insurgency.

The Taliban broke off contact with the Americans last year and have always refused to negotiate with Kabul, but on Wednesday they unveiled an office in Qatar “to open dialogue between the Taliban and the world”.

Infographic: NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan (Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya English)

Their statement, however, made no direct reference to peace talks.

Wednesday also saw NATO’s formal transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan police and army. About 100,000 international combat troops, 68,000 of them from the U.S., are due to withdraw by the end of next year.

(With AFP)

Afghanistan suspends talks after US-Taliban move

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22965046

 

Afghanistan suspends talks after US-Taliban move

Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar. 18 June 2013 The row centres on the new Taliban office, which opened in Qatar’s capital Doha on Tuesday

Afghanistan has suspended talks with the US to discuss the nature of US military presence after foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said the decision was taken over “contradictions” in the US proposal of direct talks with the Taliban.

Mr Karzai also ruled out talking to the Taliban until the peace process was “Afghan-led”.

Earlier, four US soldiers died in a Taliban attack at an Afghan air base.

A spokesman for the Taliban said the militants had launched two rockets at Bagram airbase, the largest military base for US troops in Afghanistan.

The attack came just hours after the US announced it would open direct talks with the Taliban at their office in the Qatari capital, Doha.

A condition for the talks was for the Taliban to renounce violence. However, US President Barack Obama did not make a ceasefire part of the preliminary negotiations.

Continue reading the main story

Analysis

image of Jonathan Beale Jonathan Beale BBC News, Kabul

President Karzai clearly feels a sense of anger and betrayal over the way the US made that announcement. He thought there would be a commitment from the Taliban to engage with the Afghan government, to recognise the constitution and to renounce violence.

None of those promises were made. Hopes that these talks with the Taliban will go very far must be fading fast. Without the involvement of the Afghan government there is no peace process.

Already tense relations with the US and President Karzai have reached a new low with the suspension of the negotiations of the Bilateral Security Agreement.

On top of that the Taliban have given no indication that the fighting will end – carrying out an attack on the US military base in Bagram within hours of what was supposed to be an “important first step” towards reconciliation.

The BBC’s Jonathan Beale says the Afghan government clearly thinks that US preconditions should have included a commitment to talk to the Afghan government, to acknowledge the constitution of Afghanistan and to renounce violence.

Meanwhile, President Obama said he always expected “friction” at Afghan peace talks.

“My hope is that despite those challenges the process will proceed,” he said during an official visit to Berlin on Wednesday.

“Ultimately we’re going to need to see Afghans talking to Afghans about how they can move forward and end the cycle of violence so they can start actually building their country”.

‘Name and flag’

Afghanistan’s National Security Council confirmed President Karzai had suspended the fourth round of the bilateral security agreement talks.

“There is a contradiction between what the US government says and what it does regarding Afghanistan peace talks,” the president’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said.

He added that the president disagreed with the name given to the new Taliban office opened on Tuesday in the Qatari capital, Doha.

“We oppose the title the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ because such a thing doesn’t exist,” Mr Faizi said.

“The US was aware of the president’s stance.”

Afghan officials said Mr Karzai also objected to the Taliban flag flying over the new premises.

The announcement comes a day after Nato handed over the security for the whole of the country to the Afghan government for the first time since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

Continue reading the main story

What Afghans think about the Taliban office in Doha

  • MP Shekiba Hashemi: “This is being done without the people of Afghanistan being consulted. It is not only a matter of concern but also a clear violation of the constitution.”
  • Political analyst Kamal Sadat: “We welcome the opening of the Qatar office. It is a step forward in the peace process.”
  • Independent candidate Hasht-e Sobh: “With the opening of an office in Qatar, the Taliban have appeared both in the military and political fields against the Afghan government.”
  • National Front spokesman Faizollah Zaki: “The office cannot play the role of a kind of embassy. The inauguration of the office cannot be at the cost of the legitimacy of the current Afghan government.”

The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary says President Karzai has been reluctant to sign a long-term agreement with the US amid fears it would undermine Afghan sovereignty – and how it might reflect on him during his remaining time in office.

‘Puppets of Washington’

US officials told reporters on Tuesday that the first formal meeting between US and Taliban representatives was expected to take place in Doha on Thursday.

On the same day, President Karzai said he also intended to send delegates of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) to Doha to engage in talks with the Taliban in the coming days.

But there are now questions whether the HPC, set up specifically to deal with the Taliban, will still go to Doha, correspondents say.

In the past, the Taliban have always refused to meet President Karzai or his government, dismissing them as puppets of Washington.

Mr Karzai has expressed anger at previous US and Qatari efforts to kick-start the peace process without properly consulting his government, correspondents say.

There is also concern within the presidential palace that the Taliban will use the office in Qatar to raise funds.

The US has previously tried to negotiate with the Taliban, but never held direct talks.

In March 2012 the Taliban said it had suspended preliminary negotiations with Washington, citing US efforts to involve the Afghan government as a key stumbling block.

The Taliban set up a diplomatic presence in Qatar in January 2012 and US officials held preliminary discussions there.