US Struggles to Reassure Karzai, But Are Taliban Talks Dead?

Taliban Peace Talks and Karzai Troop Level Talks in Tatters

Announced yesterday by the Taliban and hotly anticipated as the talks that might finally end the war, peace talks there were supposed to begin in Qatar on Thursday are in serious doubt now, with the Karzai government angrily withdrawing and the US being vague on whether they’re trying to save the talks or not.

On the one hand, Secretary of State John Kerry is said to have called President Karzai to discuss his “concerns” related to the Taliban, but State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, when asked about the talks, appeared baffled and insisted that there had never been talks scheduled in the first, and that all of the US focus was on “consultations” with the Karzai government on whether or not to ever hold them.

Indeed, the peace talks with the Taliban may be an entirely secondary concern at this point for the US, as President Karzai’s office has also reported that they are suspending the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) talks, which were supposed to be the basis for keeping the US occupation forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

The BSA talks are also being suspended in response to Karzai’s anger over the Taliban flying the flag of pre-occupation Afghanistan at their office in Qatar, and Karzai followed up on that anger apparently by not only cancelling the peace talks which may or may not have been scheduled, but condemning the US and cancelling the talks on the continued occupation.

The US has repeatedly had falling outs with the Karzai government, and has in the past expressed a preference to “replace” him outright with a more cooperative ruler. Still, with Karzai’s last term in office nearing an end, the US seems stuck with him and will likely have to at least try to placate him enough to keep troops on the ground beyond his reign.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.