The United States is scrambling to get planned talks with Afghanistan back on track, after denying reports that it agreed to meet with the Taliban.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai called off security meetings with the US Tuesday after accusing American officials of duplicity in their diplomatic efforts. The Taliban's move to set up political offices in Doha, Qatar — where talks with the US were allegedly scheduled to take place this week — has angered Afghan officials.
Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly placed at least two calls to Karzai Wednesday in an attempt to smooth over the recent rocky developments.
"There is a contradiction between what the US government says and what it does regarding Afghanistan peace talks," a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday, after State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that reports of US-Taliban talks were "inaccurate."
"We are still in discussion with the Afghan government about the appropriate next steps," said Psaki, adding that Ambassador James Dobbins, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, would be staying put as of now.
"I don't have any updates on if and when he will travel," she said.
"We always knew there would be bumps in the road," Psaki said of the talks. "Clearly this has been challenging."
Afghanistan was especially bothered by a banner hung outside the Taliban's new headquarters calling it the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," a nod to when the insurgents were in control of the country.
"The US officials told us the office will be used to move peace talks forward, but not to give them an identity," an Afghan official told Reuters. "The Taliban's flag and the banner of the Islamic Emirate was something we did not expect."
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