Kerry casts doubt on U.S.-Taliban talks

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Story highlights

  • Kerry says it's unclear whether talks can move forward
  • The U.S. special envoy is waiting for a Taliban response, he says
  • The talks are supposed to happen in Qatar in the coming days

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cast doubt on the future of U.S. talks with the Taliban, saying Saturday he doesn't know whether it's possible to get them back on track.

The secretary made the remarks during a brief stop in Doha, Qatar, where the talks are supposed to be held sometime in the coming days, though no date has been set.

Kerry said the senior U.S. official who will participate in the talks, Special Envoy James Dobbins, was in Qatar waiting for a Taliban response.

"We need to see if we can get it back on track," Kerry told reporters. "I don't know whether that's possible or not. If there is not a decision to move forward by the Taliban in short order, then we may have to consider whether or not the office has to be closed."

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In a file picture taken on January 30, 2012, Taliban fighters stand with their weapons as they hold the Muslim holy book Koran after they joined Afghan government forces during a ceremony in Herat province. The medieval Taliban who ran Afghanistan with the Koran in one hand and a gun in the other now tweet and talk peace, but they remain a potent threat as a NATO withdrawal looms.

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The Taliban opened a Doha office last week with a promise to renounce international terrorism and commit to peace negotiations, conditions the United States had set before it would support establishing the office as part of peace talks.

Kerry said Qatar agreed to host the office in order to facilitate the negotiations.

"It is our hope that this could ultimately be an important step in reconciliation if it's possible," Kerry said. "We know that it may well not be possible, and it's really up to the Taliban to make that choice."

    Saturday, the Afghan Interior Ministry announced the deaths of 59 Taliban members in separate operations since Friday.

    Afghan National Police killed 18 Taliban members and wounded 11 others after Taliban forces attacked an Afghan police post in Kunduz province, the interior ministry said.

    Joint operations between Afghan and coalition forces in five other provinces, aimed at clearing out terrorists, left 41 Taliban members killed, one wounded and nine others arrested, the interior ministry said.