The statement came days after The Guardian reported that US President Donald Trump is pushing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to close a Taliban mission in Qatar, Daily times reports.
The office was closed in 2013 over objections by then President Hamid Karzai, who would always call for a specific Taliban address for contacts. Karzai was critical at the Taliban use of their white flag and plaque of the Islamic Emirate, the name they had used during 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan. Despite closure of the office, the Taliban political envoys are still based in Qatar for contact with UN and other international institutions for political and humanitarian issues. The Taliban angrily reacted to the reports that Trump and the beleaguered Afghan president were now pressing for the closure of the office.
“In 2013, a Political Office for negotiations was officially inaugurated in the Qatari capital of Doha following a series of meetings with American officials. But before any negotiations could commence, Kabul again protested under excuse of office name and flag and the US accepted their view,” the Taliban said, while commenting on reports about details of the Trump-Ghani meeting in September.
The statement issued by the Taliban office in Qatar said that opening of the political office was a message to those “invading countries” who accused the Taliban of lacking a programme and intention towards finding a peaceful solution and due to their concentration on war.
“This is a baseless allegation against the Islamic Emirate. Finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem was and is the policy of Islamic Emirate. In order to clarify this policy, the Islamic Emirate dispatched veteran and experienced diplomats to the capital of Qatar in 2011 after an agreement with the concerned parties to establish an avenue of contact for the efforts of a peace process,” the statement said.
Hizb-e-Islami Chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has reportedly opposed closure of the office and said the current environment was suitable for the peace negotiations. Hekmatyar returned to Kabul in May this year after nearly 20 years following his peace deal with the government.
Qatari senior counterterrorism adviser Mutlaq al Qahtani told Al Jazeera in June that Qatar hosted the Taliban “by request by the US government” and as part of Qatar’s “open-door policy, to facilitate talks, to mediate and to bring peace”.
The Taliban statement said the movement’s leadership had tasked political negotiators with working towards finding a peaceful resolution to the Afghan problem. “If they are to meet delegations from other countries, the sole agenda will be peace and explaining the policy of Taliban in this regard.”
“The Political Office is an authoritative organ of the Emirate. No other organ or individual of the Islamic Emirate has or will have any permission or authority to conduct open or secret activities in this regard. The Political Office has done its job. However, the opposition has repeatedly blocked efforts of a peace process and has now spread rumours about closing the office. This in itself reflects their anti-peace policy,” the Taliban said.
The statement while highlighting working of the political office recalled that it was mutually agreed in 2011 that a delegation from the Political Office of the Taliban would participate in the Bonn Conference where true efforts would be made towards finding a peaceful resolution.
“However, the Kabul regime launched preventative actions, which were accepted by the US. In this same year, when political representatives of the Islamic Emirate arrived at Qatar, the Kabul administration showed their displeasure and recalled their ambassador to Kabul in protest.”
Following a peace conference in Chantilly of France in the year 2012, it was agreed that in the early part of 2013, another conference will be held in Turkmenistan, which shall pave the way for peace. However, once again, it was shunned by Kabul.
“In January 2016, when guests were arriving to a second conference organised by Pugwash in Doha, efforts were made to stop them from leaving Kabul airport,” the statement went on to say.
“Similarly, another conference was organised by Pugwash on August of this year in Kazakhstan. It was expected that a delegation from the Political Office would also participate. However, Kabul once again protested, which was accepted by the US,” it said.
“From this, one can discern that finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem has no room in the policy of the American invaders and their foreign and internal allies. Rather, the real strategy is prolonging the occupation of Afghanistan, martyring Afghans, destroying Afghanistan and using Afghanistan as a military base for their imperialistic goals,” the Taliban statement said.
It said that finding a true peaceful solution to the Afghan problem was still the enduring policy of the Taliban. “However, Taliban must state that if this door of opportunity is shut, all responsibility for the war in Afghanistan and its results will fall squarely on the shoulders of the invaders and their allies,” the statement said.