Peace talks scheduled to begin Thursday between the United States and the Taliban faltered after the Afghan government complained that the Islamist political group’s newly opened Qatar office would be treated as a government-in-exile.

The talks were intended to discuss an end to the 12-year-old U.S.-Afghan war. Official-looking protocol surrounding the United States’ treatment of the Taliban prompted “a diplomatic scramble to allay concerns” of the Afghan government.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

Repeated phone calls by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, appeared not to have mollified Karzai, who accused the Obama administration of duplicity. Irritated by a press conference in Qatar at which the Taliban attempted to portray themselves as a government in exile, Karzai suspended talks on a long-term security deal to keep US troops in Afghanistan after Nato leaves in 2014.

News on Tuesday that American diplomats would sit down with Taliban leaders – the first direct talks since the US helped oust the group from power in 2001 – prompted speculation that real progress towards a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan might be in sight.

But while the Taliban hinted at meeting US demands of a break with al-Qaida – saying Afghan soil should not be used to harm other countries – there was only the barest of nods to Kabul’s request that they talk to the current administration and respect Afghanistan’s constitution. The group infuriated Karzai by displaying a white Taliban flag and repeatedly referring to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, the name the group used when they ruled from Kabul.

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