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Imminent US Talks With Taliban Provoke Karzai Regime to Call Off Talks With US on Security Agreement

Afghanistan calls off talks with U.S. on security agreement

KABUL, June 19, 2013 (Xinhua) --

The Afghan government on Wednesday announced that it suspended talks with the United States on the proposed security agreement, saying the United States had contradictory stance over the peace process in Afghanistan, local media reported.

"The ongoing fourth round of talks between Afghanistan and the United States on the security agreement is suspended. The decision was taken because of U.S. inconsistency in statements and actions in regard to the Afghan peace process," local TV channel TOLO reported, citing a statement released by the Afghan National Security Council.

The announcement came one day after Taliban opened a political office in Doha, the capital of Gulf state of Qatar.

According to the report, U.S. representatives are to launch talks with the Taliban there on Thursday.

The United States and Afghanistan signed a U.S.-Afghanistan Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement in May 2012. The two countries began talks on proposed Bilateral Security Agreement ( BSA) late last year.

The controversial agreement of BSA, if signed, would guarantee the presence of U.S. military at least for several years in Afghanistan, a contentious issue that has been opposed by some circles at home and neighboring states.

U.S., Taliban to meet in Doha

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 (Xinhua) --

The United States will meet the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha for a peace process in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

"The U.S. will have its first formal meeting with the Taliban, and indeed first meeting with the Taliban for several years, in a couple of days in Doha," a senior administration official told reporters via conference call.

The meeting comes at a time when the Afghan government was taking the lead in military operations across the country on Tuesday and the Taliban was opening a political office in Doha.

The officials joining the conference call said the U.S.-Taliban meeting is expected to be followed by another one within days between the Taliban and the Afghan High Peace Council, a 70-member body set up by the government in the summer of 2010 to initiate peace talks with the Taliban.

"I think that given the level of distrust among Afghans, it's going to be a slow process to get that dialogue, that intra-Afghan dialogue moving," one official said. "And the United States will encourage and help facilitate that."

The officials played down expectations of the first U.S.- Taliban meeting, defining it as one for exchanging agendas rather than engaging in any "substantive, detailed" discussion.

"We'll tell them what we want to talk about; they'll tell us what they want to talk about; and we'll both then adjourn and consult on next steps, and then have another meeting in a week or two later," one official said.

The officials said Washington will raise the issue of the Taliban cutting ties with al-Qaida, urge the Taliban to "talk seriously" to the Afghan government and seek the return of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army sergeant held prisoner by the Taliban for the past four years.

The Taliban would issue statements in Doha later Tuesday to declare its opposition to the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries and its support for an Afghan peace process, according to the officials.

"These are two statements which we've long called for and together, they fulfill the requirements for the Taliban to open an office, a political office, in Doha for the purposes of negotiation with the Afghan government," one official said.

The American and NATO troops transferred the control of 95 remaining districts to Afghan security forces in a ceremony on Tuesday, completing a transition process that started in 2011 and paving the way for a full withdrawal of coalition forces by the end of 2014 following a nearly 12-year bloody war against the Taliban.

Afghan Taliban confirms opening liaison office in Qatar

KABUL, June 18, 2013 (Xinhua) --

The Afghan Taliban on Tuesday evening confirmed that the insurgent group set up a liaison office in the Qatari capital of Doha, to initiate talks with some international organizations, said a statement issued by the outfit.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban purported spokesman, said in the statement that Taliban will use the Doha office to keep contact with the United Nations and other international and local organizations as well as enhancing relation with the foreign countries.

Earlier on Tuesday, Afghan local media reported that the U.S. will conduct peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar. If the Taliban accept they will talk with the U.S., it will be the first direct talks between U.S. and the Taliban.

But Mujahid did not say if Taliban meet U.S. officials there.

Without providing details, Mujahid said the office will also be used for talks with some influential Afghans.

The Doha office will also be used to release information about the current political situation in Afghanistan, to the media outlets, Mujahid said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that a delegation of Afghan peace council will travel to Qatar for direct talks with Taliban.

Karzai and other leaders have repeatedly offered peace talks with the Taliban. However, the Taliban has categorically rejected the offer, saying there will be no talks until foreign troops leave the country.

The Taliban spokesman also thanked the Qatari ruling Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani for facilitating Taliban to opening the office.

Editor: Mu Xuequan


Pentagon hails transfer of security responsibility in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 (Xinhua) --

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday hailed the NATO's transfer of security responsibility in Afghanistan as a "critical milestone" achieved by the determination of Afghan people and sacrifices by NATO and Afghan troops.

"This critical milestone is a tribute to the determination of the people of Afghanistan to take responsibility for their country's future, and it was made possible by heavy sacrifices on the part of the United States, coalition partners, and the Afghan forces," Hagel said in a statement.

"I appreciate the leadership of (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai in helping oversee this transition and commend NATO Secretary General (Anders Fogh) Rasmussen and Gen. Joe Dunford, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, for their tireless efforts," Hagel said.

NATO forces handed over security responsibility to Afghan troops Tuesday to end combat missions in the country. The handover paved the way for the pullout of around 97,000 troops from 48 countries, including 66,000 Americans, by the end of 2014.

A much smaller force will be left to carry out training and advisory missions for Afghan troops after the 2014 pullout of NATO forces.

"This achievement keeps us and our coalition partners on track to bring our combat mission to a close next year and transition to a noncombat train, advise and assist mission that will help ensure Afghans can sustain security into the future," Hagel said.

In a statement released earlier Tuesday, Rasmussen said the security transfer "marks an important milestone" as NATO forces will no longer plan, execute or lead combat operations since Tuesday.

"NATO and Afghanistan, along with our partners, will continue this journey together, based on a new relationship that will remain strong for the years to come," he said.

Editor: Zhu Ningzhu

NATO to stop combat operations in Afghanistan: chief

BRUSSELS, June 18, 2013 (Xinhua) --

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Tuesday that NATO forces will no longer plan, execute or lead combat operations in Afghanistan.

The remarks came after Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced at a ceremony in Kabul that his country's security forces are taking over the lead for security nationwide from the NATO coalition.

"This decision marks an important milestone. As Afghan forces step forward, ISAF's role will shift from combat to support. We will no longer plan, execute or lead combat operations," Rasmussen said in a statement.

Around 97,000 troops from NATO countries and its partners are stationed in Afghantain. NATO has decided to withdraw all combat troops from the Central Asia country by the end of 2014 and leave a much smaller force behind for a new mission.

Called "Resolute Support," Rasmussen said the goal of the new mission "is to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces."

"NATO and Afghanistan, along with our partners, will continue this journey together, based on a new relationship that will remain strong for the years to come," he said.

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