Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that the U.S. wants to see proposed peace talks with the Taliban “get back on track” after being thrown into doubt this week amid a diplomatic dispute with the Afghan government.
“We need to see if we can get back on track,” Kerry told a news conference in Qatar. “I don’t know whether that’s possible or not.”
Peace talks between U.S. and Taliban representatives were thrown off course Wednesday after irate Afghan President Hamid Karzai suspended his involvement due to a dispute over a recently opened Taliban office in the Qatari capital of Doha, which had been established in anticipation of the proposed talks.
In a statement, Karzai accused the U.S. of a "contradiction” after a sign that was placed over the Taliban office bore the name of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” – the country’s title during the Taliban regime of the 1990s.
Amid a diplomatic kerfuffle, the State Department on Wednesday announced that the Qatari government removed the sign board bearing the disputed name.
"The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement clarifying that the name of the office is the Political Office of the Afghan Taliban and not the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and that it had the sign with the incorrect name in front of the door taken down," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Kerry on Saturday warned that the Taliban office may need to be shuttered if peace talks do not resume as planned.
“If there is not a decision … to move forward by the Taliban in short order, then we may have to consider whether or not the office has to be closed,” Kerry said.
The Taliban has offered to deliver the only known American prisoner of war from the 12-year-long conflict in return for five senior operatives held at Guantanamo Bay, Taliban sources told NBC News.
U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 27, from Hailey, Idaho, has been held in captivity since 2009 after disappearing from his base in Afghanistan. His exact location is unknown, but he is believed to be held in Pakistan by the Haqqani network.
The negotiation's conditions require the Taliban to sever ties with al Qaeda, put an end to violence and accept the Afghan constitution, in particular protections for women and minorities, Obama administration officials told NBC News.