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Washington, Kabul publicly disagree over talks with Taliban

16 March 2019

"Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale summoned Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib today to reject the public comments attributed to Mr Mohib criticising the U.S. approach to reconciliation", State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said after the meeting between the two officials.

-Afghan ties and the peace process.

Khalilzad informed Gokhale about the issues under discussions with the Taliban and that Washington was insisting on an assurance that territory of Afghanistan will not be used for any terror activities.

Mohib condemned the USA talks as the "wrong approach" and for "delegitimizing the Afghan government and weakening it and at the same time elevating the Taliban". The U.S. has long demanded that any talks be "an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" process, even spending months declining to confirm that Khalilzad or another senior U.S. diplomat Alice Wells was directly meeting with Taliban representatives without the Afghan government.

Mohib's comments were the most strident public complaints to date by an Afghan official over the Kabul's government's exclusion from negotiations with the Taliban. "He was wanting to run for president twice", Mohib told the Reuters news agency. He was born and raised in Afghanistan, but studied in the USA and has worked in the US government in various positions, including as ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations.

"Viceroy" was the title of the colonial administrator of British-ruled India and holds negative connotations in South Asia.

Critics, now including this senior member of the Afghan government, have said leaving Ghani and his government out of the room has weakened them and shown the Taliban that they don't have to deal with them.

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"The reason he is delegitimizing the Afghan government and weakening it, and at the same time elevating the Taliban can only have one approach. It's definitely not for peace", he said.

After previous rounds of talks, Khalilzad typically travelled to Kabul to brief Afghan officials - but not this time.

Differences between the USA and Afghan governments over the peace talks became public this week after a senior Afghan official criticised Washington for talking to the Taliban while the Trump administration summoned him to the State Department to convey its displeasure.

Afghanistan has also complained to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) against Islamabad due to its engagement with the Taliban and attempts to subvert the Afghan peace process.

They were accused by global groups of human rights violations, causing concerns among more moderate Afghans about their participation in any future government.

The Taliban controlled the Afghan government before being driven from power in 2001 by a US -led invasion after it refused to end support for Al-Qaeda following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

The U.S. military has some 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly serving in training and advisory roles.

Washington, Kabul publicly disagree over talks with Taliban