News / Asia

Taliban: Doha Office Flag, Banner Raised with 'Agreement of Qatar'

A general view of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha, Qatar, June 18, 2013.
A general view of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha, Qatar, June 18, 2013.
Reuters
The Taliban had the agreement of the Qatar government to use its flag and banner at the opening of its Doha office, the group said on Sunday, in a sign it may be unwilling to remove what has become a key sticking-point in nascent Afghan peace talks.
    
There appeared to have been a breakthrough last week in efforts to kickstart peace talks to end a 12-year-old war in Afghanistan, when the Taliban said it was opening a long-anticipated office in the Qatari capital, Doha.
    
But those hopes were dashed when the Afghan government reacted in outrage over the opening of the office last Tuesday, protesting against the raising of the Taliban flag and the use of signs proclaiming "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the name the Taliban used during their brief rule from 1996 to 2001.
    
President Hamid Karzai canceled plans for an Afghan peace delegation to travel to Qatar and suspended talks with the United States over a vital security pact, in the belief it had failed to ensure the Taliban did not misuse the office.
    
And despite subsequent negotiations, Sunday's statement appears to suggest the Taliban may not be ready to back down.
    
"The raising of the flag and the use of the name of Islamic Emirate were done with the agreement of the Qatari government," the Taliban spokesman in Doha, Dr. Mohammad Naeem, said.
    
He also responded to reported remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the militant group had signed a pact with the United States on the use of the office.
    
While Reuters could not locate the specific report Naeem referred to, on Saturday Kerry did tell a Doha news conference that an "agreement" had not been adhered to.
    
"No such agreement has been signed, nor does such an agreement exist, although documents have been exchanged between the Islamic Emirate and the Qatari government regarding conditions of the office," Naeem said.
    
Kerry's comments in Doha appeared to have a more pessimistic cast than previous official U.S. remarks.
    
"We need to see if we can get back on track. I don't know whether that's possible or not," Kerry said.
    
"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."
    
The Karzai government showed no sign of compromise, and on Sunday foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai repeated that the ceremonial opening was in breach of "assurances" from the United States.
    
"We still need a full explanation about what happened," Mosazai said. "That needs to be explained in a clear, transparent manner to the Afghan government and those discussions and contacts are taking place as we speak."
    
If the Taliban office did not prove useful to the peace process, it should not exist, Mosazai said.
    
"If the office is not productive to the peace process... it is better that this office should not only be closed but annihilated," he added.
    
Afghanistan, the United States and Qatar have waited since Tuesday to see if the Taliban leaders would agree to remove the contentious symbols.
    
While a plaque reading "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" has been removed from the entrance to the office, a similar nameplate inside the building has stayed. The Taliban flag was lowered, but not removed.
    
The Taliban have delayed plans to start operations at the Doha office on Sunday, while awaiting instructions from their leaders, a source from the Qatari foreign ministry told Reuters.
    
"They told us that the office was going to be open today at 7 a.m., but no one is here and they still didn't tell us what their new plans are," said the source. Taliban spokesmen in Doha were not immediately available to comment.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs