Taliban's Doha Office to be Renamed

Muhammad Naeem a representative of the Taliban speaks during a press conference at the official opening of their office in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. AP Photo: Osama Faisal
Muhammad Naeem a representative of the Taliban speaks during a press conference at the official opening of their office in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. AP Photo: Osama Faisal

KABUL - The Taliban office in Doha was to be renamed to remove any reference to the state of Afghanistan, the United States told Kabul Thursday, an official said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry "assured that the Qatari government has removed the name Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the Taliban office," a presidential palace official said on the condition of anonymity.

"It will be called the Bureau of Peace Talks," he said.

The move came a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would boycott planned talks with the Taliban in Doha and suspended military planning talks with the US because "foreign powers are involved behind the Taliban office in Qatar."

The palace official said Karzai objected to the name given to the office, which opened Tuesday, and the implied status of a government given to the insurgents.

"The manner in which the office was established and the name of the Taliban office is unacceptable to us," the official said.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was the name used during Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.

The agreed purpose of the office was to hold talks between the High Peace Council, appointed by Karzai, and representatives of the Taliban, he said.

"There was to be no reference to the office or treatment of it as an embassy or office representing the Taliban as an independent government or an emirate," the official said.

"We have also been assured that the Taliban flag would be removed in the Doha office," the official said.

Taliban officials were not available for comment, but at their office in Doha, the name Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan had been removed. The Taliban flag was not withdrawn, but it was flying so low that it could not be seen from the street.

In Afghanistan, German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere warned Thursday that if Afghanistan and the US did not agree to a long-term bilateral security agreement, German troops would not stay on as trainers and advisers after the current deployment ends at the end of next year.

The minister was visiting German forces in northern Afghanistan, his 12th in the two and a half years that he has held the defence portfolio.

The bilateral security agreement between the US and Afghanistan would decide how many US troops and bases would remain after the 2014 withdrawal of NATO-led coalition combat forces.

The security agreement would follow the Status of Forces Agreement that would give foreign troops immunity from prosecution under Afghan law during their deployment. The agreement would likely be the model for a deal with Germany and other NATO countries as well.

De Maiziere said the condition to keep Germans in Afghanistan was "a sustainable, reliable agreement on the troops' rights and duties."

He also said he was in favour of negotiations with the Taliban if the militants recognize the constitution of Afghanistan and distance themselves from the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

NATO plans call for 8,000 to 12,000 Western soldiers to stay in Afghanistan post-2014, including 600 to 800 Germans. Today, nearly 100,000 foreign soldiers are based there, including 4,100 Germans.

The minister first visited Mazar-i-Sharif, then flew to Herat for talks with his Afghan counterpart, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, and Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro.

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