Karzai is ready for Taliban talks: US

ISLAMABAD: US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins said here on Tuesday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was ready for engaging with the Taliban leadership and it was for the group to decide whether it wanted to hold talks.

“President Karzai is ready to move forward and both of us (Afghan government and the US) are on the same page on this issue. We are waiting to see if they (Taliban) are interested in talking,” Ambassador Dobbins told reporters at the US embassy after his discussions with Pakistani leaders on salvaging the dialogue process that stumbled over the name of the Taliban office in Doha and a flag hoisted at the compound by the group.

Prime Minister Sharif later rang up President Karzai to explain Pakistan’s stance on the row and renew his government’s promise to assist the peace initiative.

The opening last week of the Taliban office, where the group raised a flag and put up a plaque inscribed with ‘Political office of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’, drew criticism from Kabul and President Karzai immediately cancelled plans for an Afghan peace delegation to travel to Qatar, besides suspending talks with the US over a bilateral security pact.

The US moved to appease him and got the Qatari government to remove both controversial signs and Mr Dobbins travelled to Kabul to do the explaining. The Afghan government was satisfied with the removal of the plaque, flag and flagpole from the office, but sought explanations before agreeing to join the process.

The Taliban, he said, were “absorbing the development” and the US was waiting to see if they were still interested in talking.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen had said that the group had not changed its position on the matter and insisted that the Qatari government had initially agreed to both the name and the flag.

Mr Dobbins said it might take weeks for the talks to start even though the US and Afghan government were ready to begin immediately.

Ambassador Dobbins briefed the prime minister about developments relating to bilateral relations as well as efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He elaborated on some recent developments, including the opening of the Taliban office, events within Afghanistan and the overall situation in the region.

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