Kabul and Washington reaffirmed Wednesday that they seek peace with the Taliban despite attacks on a CIA base and the Afghan presidency, repairing a row over the Islamists’ office in Qatar.
US President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai held a 90-minute conference call to try to revive early efforts to start peace talks as NATO troops prepare to withdraw in 2014 after more than 12 years of fighting against the Taliban.
The level of violence still raging in Afghanistan was highlighted when the Taliban launched an assault on Tuesday in the heart of Kabul in which three security guards and all five assailants were killed.
Gunmen and bombers using fake NATO identification attacked an entrance to the Afghan presidential palace and a nearby building known to house a CIA base in one of the most brazen assaults in Kabul since Karzai narrowly escaped assassination in April 2008.
Tentative steps towards talks were wrecked last week when a new Taliban office in Qatar provoked anger from Afghanistan and the US when it stylized itself as the embassy of a government-in-exile.
Karzai refused to send representatives to Qatar and pulled out of separate talks on a security agreement with the US that would allow Washington to keep some troops in Afghanistan after 2014.
The two leaders agreed that “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and the region,” the White House said.
The Taliban hoisted the rebel group’s white flag and referred to themselves as the “Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan”.
The contentious sign — flag and flagpole unveiled at the opening of the office last Tuesday — has now been moved.
The White House statement said Obama welcomed the June 18 “milestone” at which Afghan security forces took the lead from NATO for operations countrywide.
About 100,000 foreign combat troops, 68,000 of them American, are due to exit Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
I don’t know. Getting a bad feeling about all this!