Taliban Agrees to US, Afghan Peace Talks; Afghanistan Backs Out
A day after the Taliban announced that it will agree to peace talks with the United States and Afghanistan, the Afghan government has announced it will not participate until Afghanistan plays a larger lead role.
Senior US officials confirmed that two key conditions of the negotiations would be that the Taliban breaks ties with al-Qaeda and that they recognize the Afghan Constitution including the protections for women and minorities.
The announcement came as a surprise the day after senior US officials announced that the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the US would begin peace negotiations this week at a Taliban office in Qatar. However, the Afghan government says it does not support the way the office arrangements were handled and the banner at the location, which calls the office the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. This is the name used by the Taliban when they were in power, and suggests to Afghanistan that the Taliban considers itself a government in exile.
Afghan President Karzai announced in a statement, "Recent developments showed that there are foreign hands behind the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar. Unless the peace process is led by Afghans, the High Peace Council will not participate in the Qatar negotiations."
Human rights organizations fear that the office could grant the Taliban more legitimacy despite their attacks on women and ethnic minorities. An Afghan research associate for the Human Rights Watch in Kabul, Ahmad Shuja, told reporters, "We have genuine fear some of the hard-fought gains for women and minority rights would be at stake. We don't feel the Taliban have made any change on their position on these issues in the last 10 years, especially on women's rights."
Media Resources: New York Times 6/19/2013; Office of the Press Secretary 6/18/2013; Washington Post 6/18/2013