Tag Archives: Taliban

US wants India to bring Hamid Karzai around

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/US-wants-India-to-bring-Hamid-Karzai-around/Article1-1081845.aspx?hts0021

An America obsessed with the idea Pakistan’s assistance is necessary for an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, pushed a soft line on Pakistan with the Indian government.

US secretary of state John Kerry, during the fourth Indo-US strategic dialogue, urged his Indian interlocutors to prod a reluctant Afghan President Hamid Karzai to come around to supporting talks with the Taliban.

“You have good ties with Karzai,” Kerry reminded the Indian side, as he urged India to use its influence on the Afghan president for the peace talks with the Taliban, sources told HT.

It is learnt that at the discussions, Pakistan didn’t figure in a major way and  Kerry mostly stuck to the line of improving trade ties and the “positive signals” Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif was sending to  India.

At a press briefing, Kerry refused to answer a question as to whether the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate close to the ISI, would be part of the proposed peace talks.

According to sources, in another side of a soft Pakistan line, the US was reluctant in “adequately emphasising” standard formulations  like “Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists” in the context of Afghanistan.

In a bid to assuage Indian concerns on the Afghan peace process, Kerry reassured, “We will consult very closely with India and with others in the region.”

He also said that the Taliban, would have to “disassociate themselves from al-Qaida and from violence” and respect the constitutional protections for women and minorities.

As the Af-Pak region remains a bone of contention between the two sides, the US was looking at greater economic relations to improve ties.

And in strategic terms, both sides sought greater salience in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific region as part of a rebalancing strategy.

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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.

India assures U.S. a share of nuclear pie

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-assures-us-a-share-of-nuclear-pie/article4846708.ece?homepage=true

Sandeep Dikshit

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
The Hindu U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

India and the U.S. on Monday agreed to set a timeline for operationalising the civil nuclear agreement. The Fourth Strategic Dialogue co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid here reviewed several issues ranging from the status of civil nuclear ties between the two countries through defence trade to education and cultural exchanges — through some 30 bilateral panels.

The two ministers felt further high-level meetings should be held to achieve convergence and progress, especially in strategic issues. An example of such meetings will be the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden scheduled for mid-July.

The new U.S. Af Pak envoy James Dobbin, fresh from a visit to Qatar where the Taliban has opened an office, will arrive this Wednesday to ensure India’s concerns are taken on board as the West prepares to politically integrate the insurgent group, Mr. Kerry said at a joint press conference with Mr. Khurshid.

At the press conference, Mr. Kerry almost let slip America’s chagrin at not having tasted the fruits of the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement by drawing attention to the enormous domestic political capital invested by Democrats and Republicans to ensure New Delhi was given a special exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The Kerry-Khurshid meeting set September as a possible timeline for resolving two issues that have thwarted Westinghouse from setting up six reactors in Gujarat. Another company GE will set up an equal number in Andhra Pradesh but its reactor design has not yet been cleared by the U.S. nuclear regulator. India had promised these multi-billion bonanzas in exchange for supporting its case at the NSG and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

While Washington was able to make India agree on a deadline for clearing Westinghouse’s mega civil energy project, India was handed an assurance for importing shale gas from the U.S., which is likely to accrue by 2016-17. The shipments are likely to originate at the proposed LNG export terminal at Cove Point, Maryland.

The U.S. also continued to press India on adopting clean energy technologies. Of the large number of joint fact sheets released on every conceivable subject discussed by the two sides, the one on this was the most comprehensive. On Sunday, Mr. Kerry spent nearly half of his 45-minute lecture in convincing India to adopt clean technologies.

Apart from Afghanistan, another sore issue was cyber-snooping by American intelligence agencies. Officials had earlier expressed concern over double standards followed by Internet companies — denying India access to emails while happily opening their vaults to U.S. intelligence agencies.

But Mr. Khurshid sought to play down the controversy, even telling a correspondent that concern was not the right word to use. Mr. Kerry told newspersons that notwithstanding vigorous American efforts to arrest the whistleblower, access by its intelligence agencies to emails and other electronic messaging was meant to track patterns and not to read the content.

Differing viewpoints on Iran cropped up during the press meet. Mr. Kerry was strident on Iran’s refusal to fall in line with the West’s intentions and lauded India for being “very cooperative in holding them [Iran] accountable for proliferation.”

He hoped New Delhi would step in to convince the new leadership in Tehran to fall in line with the West. Mr. Khurshid, recently back from Tehran, maintained that India greatly valued its relationship with Iran and would prefer to judge and test the intentions of the new leadership before considering such a plunge.

Unhappy with compensation

India did not raise the killing of one fisherman and the injuries caused to two others by a U.S. warship off the coast of Abu Dhabi in July last year. In the past, India had expressed dissatisfaction with the paltry compensation given to the injured as well as with a heavily crossed out U.S. Navy probe report which put the blame on the three Tamil fishermen.

Kerry asks India to play greater role in Aghanistan, Iran negotiations

http://www.firstpost.com/world/kerry-asks-india-to-play-greater-role-in-aghanistan-iran-negotiations-901005.html

Apart from seeking the implementation of the civil nuclear deal and various other topics, US Secretary of State John Kerry today said that they looked to India to play a greater role in resolving issues between the US and nations like Afghanistan and Iran.

Emphasising that any talks with the Taliban, following the setting up of a political office in Qatar, would be process led by the Afghan people, Kerry said that the US would be briefing Indian authorities about the process.

Thanking India for its support in Afghanistan, Kerry said that were in touch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“This is an Afghan-led process,” Kerry said.

Noting that there were certain conditions to be met, like the Taliban severing ties from terror groups like the al-Qaeda, he said,” If these conditions are met, then negotiations will take place with the high peace council of Afghanistan.”

“It is better to explore the possibility of having a peaceful resolution if it is possible,” he said.

John Kerry and Salman Khurshid. AFP

John Kerry and Salman Khurshid. AFP

He said he hoped that talks with the Taliban would provide “an avenue for the reduction of violence,” but in the event that it did not, the US was prepared to continue to train and equip Afghan armed forces well beyond 2014.

The US secretary of state, who is on his maiden visit to the country, said he is certain that India will encourage President Karzai to ensure all provisions are made for free, fair and transparent elections in Afghanistan.

“The people of Afghanistan need to see and feel that the elections are free and fair,” he said, adding that India needed to help it.

The US also expects India to convince the new leadership in Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear programme was indeed for peaceful purposes as claimed.

Kerry said that the US understood India’s relationship with Iran and hoped that India will urge the new leadership there not to “miscalculate” the US’ intention.

“We urge Iran to prove to the world that their peaceful nuclear programme is indeed peaceful. We hope India will help us, ” Kerry said.

He also said the US is looking forward to the early implementation of civil nuclear deal with India.

The two ministers said that they have had substantial discussions on tackling terrorism, joint ventures in space co-operation, defence, development, education, agriculture and health.

Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid said that he and US Secretary of John Kerry have struck a right note during the bilateral talks.

“We have so far done a lot of good work to keep the India-US relationship growing and on a personal note Kerry and I seem to have struck a right note,” Khurshid said.

He said that the two countries have exchanged 112 senior officials in high level visits with the US and both the countries will continue to build on the good work done so far.

Kerry reiterating Khurshid’s opinion on having struck the right note and said Vice President Joe Biden will visit India towards the end of July to strengthen ties between the two nations.

US Vice President Joe Biden to visit India next month

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/us-vice-president-joe-biden-to-visit-india-next-month/20130624.htm

United States Vice President Joe Biden will travel to India next month, his first official visit after assuming the position in 2008.

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“Vice President Biden will be visiting India in late July,” US Secretary of State John Kerry announced at a joint press conference with his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid Monday after co-chairing the 4th round of Indo-US strategic dialogue.

Biden’s will be the highest level visit by an American official in last three years. US President Barack Obama had visited India in 2008.

Kerry also added, “Both of us (me and Khurshid) are particularly eager and committed to taking this relationship to new heights… It is one of the defining relationships of the 21st century.”

Kerry said US special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins will be here on Wednesday to brief the officials directly on the proposed talks with Taliban.

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Won’t overlook India’s concern over talks with Taliban: US

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/wont-overlook-indias-concern-over-talks-with-taliban-us/20130624.htm

The United States on Monday assured India that its concerns over Taliban insurgents gaining legitimacy without severing their terror links will neither be “overlooked or undermined” during the talks with the Islamic fundamentalist group.

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This emerged after the 4th round of Indo-US strategic dialogue in New Delhi that was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his American counterpart John Kerry and covered key strategic issues of security, defence, nuclear cooperation and trade ties.

Khurshid, at a joint presser with Kerry, said, “This (proposed talks with Taliban) is an experiment that is being done in order to find an alternative for sustainable peace in Afghanistan. One cannot disagree with the issues or dimensions or aspects, which are of concern to us. I must say with gratitude that the secretary of state himself earmarked that and said that as they proceed, they will ensure that none of the concerns of India are overlooked or undermined.

“That is a good way of working closely together. It is very clear what the objective is and how far that objective is possible, only time will tell. But with caution and care being approached as an objective, I think it is something that nobody will have a problem with.”

Khurshid was asked if he raised India’s concerns over the proposed talks with the Taliban in view of the impending withdrawal of US troops from war-torn Afghanistan.

On his part, Kerry made it very clear that the talks with the Taliban will only be negotiated under “certain conditions. “Thus far, those conditions have not yet been met. So, there are no negotiations at this point. If the conditions are met, then there will be negotiations that will take place. Not with the US but with the high peace council of Afghanistan.”

He also said the requirements included that the constitution of Afghanistan must be respected, that they (Taliban) do not affiliate or associate themselves, in fact disassociate themselves, from the Al Qaeda, violence and that the rights of women, minorities will be respected.

“Now, that is not going to change. If it is required to be changed, obviously there will be no agreement. But it is there to explore the possibilities of having a peaceful resolution and conclusion of a political process if it is possible. Ultimately, that will be decided by the Afghan people….”, Kerry added.

Kerry also said the US special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins will be in New Delhi on Wednesday to brief the officials directly on the proposed talks.

“We will continue under any circumstances, the US will continue as President Obama has made it clear to support the Afghan parliament, to support Afghan military, to continue to equip and train well beyond the 2014 and to continue to have a level of force on the ground that will continue to conduct anti-terrorism or counter-terrorism activities,” he said.

“The hope is this could provide an avenue for reduction in violence but there is certainly a course that we are committed to…” he added. He also hailed India as the country equipped to take on some of the biggest challenges of “our time”.

Apart from crucial regional issues, the two sides covered key strategic pillars of Indo-US relationship, namely — security, economics and technology; regional strategic and political issues and global issues.

Kerry, who had five years ago while in the senate led a successful floor debate on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, also said the two sides hoped that the commercial agreement between the US energy major Westinghouse Electric company and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited will be signed in September.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been invited by Obama, is expected to travel to the US and hold bilateral talks with him in September.

The two sides also talked about Iran with Kerry terming India’s reductions in imports of oil from Iran as an “important step” in bringing pressure on Tehran over its contentious nuclear programme. “We are appreciative that India has worked hard to reduce its dependency on Iranian oil and that has been an important step,” Kerry said and also asked New Delhi to urge the Iranians “not to miscalculate about American and international commitment” to stopping Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran has been maintaining that its nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes. Washington renewed six-month waivers on its Iran sanctions for India, China and seven other economies earlier this month in exchange for their agreeing to reduce purchases of oil from Tehran.

Kerry and Khurshid also reaffirmed their countries’ strong commitment to work collaboratively to help ensure energy security, combat global climate change and support the development of low-carbon economies that will create opportunities and fuel job growth in both countries.

Image: US Secretary of State John Kerry, on his first visit to India as secretary, gestures to the media at the end of a photo opportunity with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid at Hyderabad House in New Delhi’Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters

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)

Karzai threatens to boycott Taliban talks

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/06/20136197363618634.html

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his officials will not take part in negotiations in Doha.

Last Modified: 19 Jun 2013 14:50
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Al Jazeera speaks to Shukria Barakzai, an Afghan MP, about the suspension of talks with the United States
The Afghan government has said it will boycott talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, until the process is “Afghan-led”.

“As long as the peace process is not Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in the talks in Qatar,” President Hamid Karzai said in a statement on Wednesday, referring to a body he set up in 2010 to seek a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

The announcement came hours after Afghanistan, upset over what it called the US’ “inconsistent statement and action” over the peace process with the Taliban, said it was suspending security negotiations with Washington.

Wednesday’s developments came a day after the US said it would engage in direct negotiations with the Taliban, who officially opened a political office in Doha a day earlier.

“The president suspended the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement] talks with the US this morning,” Aimal Faizi, President Karzai’s spokesman, said.

“There is a contradiction between what the US government says and what it does regarding Afghanistan peace talks,” Faizi told AFP.

‘Islamic Emirate’

The BSA is meant to provide a strategic framework for US troops to remain in the country after its troops formally exit Afghanistan by the end of 2014. It will finalise issues such as the number of troops to remain, where they will be based and under what terms they will operate.

Faizi said that Karzai particularly objected to “the name of the [Taliban’s] office” in the Qatari capital.

“We oppose the title the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ because such a thing doesn’t exist,” Faizi said. “The US was aware of the president’s stance.”

Meanwhile, the Taliban said it would continue to target the US military in Afghanistan, undeterred by US moves to hold direct negotiations with it .

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, said his group will not change their tactics or objectives.

The Taliban threat rang true as the armed group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Bagram air base, a major hub for US aircraft about 47km north of Kabul, that killed four US soldiers on Tuesday.

‘Two-pronged approach’

Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson reporting from the Afghan capital said that the US can still go ahead with talks with the Taliban and without the Afghan government.

“But without the Afghan government there then post-2014 peace is put in jeopardy”, Ferguson said, adding that the long-term strategy was to get both groups to talk.

The US is cautiously optimistic of the Taliban peace talks

The US military presence in Afghanistan is roughly 66,000 troops, after having reached a peak of about 100,000 forces.

US officials cautioned that the peace process would likely be messy and has no guarantee of success.

“It’s going to be a long, hard process if indeed it advances significantly at all,” a senior US official said.

Meanwhile, the NATO command in Kabul on Tuesday completed handing over lead security responsibility to Afghan government forces across the country.

NATO plans to end all combat operations in Afghanistan by December 2014.

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.