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Afghan Taliban Shuts Doha Office in Protest at Symbol Removal

  • VOA News

A general view of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha, June 18, 2013.

A general view of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha, June 18, 2013.

An Afghan Taliban official says the militant group has stopped using its new office in the Qatari capital Doha in protest at the removal of Taliban symbols from the facility.

The unnamed Taliban official told several news agencies that Taliban representatives have stayed away from the office in recent days and refused to answer phone calls.

The Afghan insurgent group opened the office with Qatari approval on June 18 and displayed a white flag and plaque identifying itself as the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." It was the same name as the Taliban government that ran Afghanistan until a U.S.-led invasion toppled it in 2001.

Qatari authorities quickly removed the flag and sign after Afghan President Hamid Karzai objected to the symbols, calling them an attempt to create a rival Taliban government to his own administration.

The Doha office is meant to serve as a venue for talks between a Karzai-appointed peace council and the Taliban, which has been fighting a decade-long insurgency against the Afghan government and U.S.-led international troops supporting it.

There was no immediate comment on the status of the Taliban office from the Qatari or Afghan governments.

Karzai also has criticized recent U.S. attempts to open separate peace talks with the Taliban.

The New York Times says strains in Karzai's relationship with the United States have led President Barack Obama to consider withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan next year, rather than sticking with current plans for a long-term U.S. presence.

In a report published on its website Monday, the newspaper cites unnamed American and European officials as saying Obama has become "increasingly frustrated" in negotiations with his Afghan counterpart, resulting in the U.S. leader giving "serious consideration" to the "zero option."

The Times report said the relationship between Obama and Karzai has been "slowly unraveling." It said a June 27 videoconference designed to defuse the tensions "ended badly." The newspaper said Karzai has complained that a separate U.S. peace deal with the Taliban and its Pakistani supporters would leave his government "exposed" to its enemies.

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