Afghan Taliban suspend talks

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Story highlights

  • The Afghan Taliban blame the Americans' "ever-changing position"
  • The Taliban opened the office in January
  • Preliminary talks had begun over the exchange of prisoners
  • The decision is effective "until the Americans clarify their stance," the group says
The Afghan Taliban announced Thursday they have suspended a diplomatic office in Qatar intended for talks with the United States. The group cited what it described as the Americans' "alternating and ever-changing position" for the decision.
The Taliban had opened the office on January 3 "for the purposes of reaching an understanding with the international community and for addressing some specific issues with the American invaders after arriving at an agreement with the government of Qatar," the group said in a statement.
Thursday's announcement came shortly after U.S. officials said they had moved a U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians out of Afghanistan and on the day that U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was meeting in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai.
Preliminary talks "with the occupying enemy" had already begun over the exchange of prisoners, the Taliban said.
"The Americans initially agreed upon taking practical steps regarding the exchange of prisoners and to not oppose our political office, but with the passage of time, they turned their backs on their promises and started initiating baseless propaganda portraying the envoys of the Islamic Emirate as having commenced multilateral negotiations for solving the Afghan dilemma," it added.
The statement said that Karzai, whom the Taliban accuse of being a U.S. puppet, "falsely proclaimed that the Kabul administration and the Americans have jointly started peace talks with Taliban."
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In their latest meeting, a U.S. representative presented a list of conditions that "were not only unacceptable but also in contradiction with the earlier agreed upon points," the statement said. "So it was due to their alternating and ever changing position that the Islamic Emirate was compelled to suspend all dialogue with the Americans. We must categorically state that the real source of obstacle in talks was the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans; therefore all the responsibility for the halt also falls on their shoulders."
The statement added the Americans and Karzai were "postponing the core issues and are wasting time."
The Taliban said the decision is effective "from today onwards until the Americans clarify their stance on the issues concerned and until they show willingness in carrying out their promises instead of wasting time."
The Taliban described as "pointless" any discussion with the administration in Kabul. It blamed the presence of foreign forces in the nation for the "instability of the entire region."
There was no immediate reaction from Washington.
The initial talks with the Taliban were aimed at establishing what senior U.S. officials called "confidence-building measures" to lay the groundwork for negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with the United States possibly serving in a mediation role.
U.S. officials have been trying to jump-start peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan officials through discussions over the past year.
The process has been marred by dissatisfaction from Afghan government officials that they were not included at the start. Karzai's advisers have complained that U.S. officials were going behind Kabul's back in talking to the Taliban.