The Afghan Taliban today suspended peace talks with the Americans, days after a US soldier went on a shooting rampage in Kandahar and killed 16 civilians including 9 children.
In a statement, the Taliban said the group "decided to suspend all talks with Americans taking place in Qatar from today onwards until the Americans clarify their stance on the issues concerned and until they show willingness in carrying out their promises instead of wasting time," according to the group's official site.
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The statement said the group had only been in contact with the Americans over the exchange of prisoners and the diplomatic recognitition of the Taliban's new Qatar office. The resulting memorandum of understanding had been followed up with US demands that "were not only unacceptable but also in contradiction with the earlier agreed upon points," the group said. "We must categorically state that the real source of obstacle in talks was the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans therefore all the responsibility for the halt also falls on their shoulders."
The move comes amid a visit by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Kabul, where the Washington Post reported he is in negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over contentious issues like continued night raids by coalition forces there.
Night raids are deeply unpopular with the Afghan population and have been criticized by Karzai.
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The Afghan leader today demanded that all NATO-led forces pull out of Afghan villages in response to Sunday's shooting, according to Reuters.
The statement also denied "any talks" between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Afghan Taliban is formally known, and Karzai's administration, despite recent hints from the Afghan government that it was in contact with the group.
No mention was made of the rising anti-US sentiment in Afghanistan, a shift that began with the controversial burning of Qurans at a US airbase last month and furthered by Sunday's killing of 16 Afghans by a US officer. The soldier has since been moved to Kuwait, a move that has sparked further outrage.
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Establishing an agreement with the Taliban is seen as critical ahead of the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops in Afghanistan.