In the hours following an announcement by the Taliban and the United States saying they were ready to begin peace talks, we received reminders of just how tenuous that situation is: On Tuesday night the Taliban said they fired two rockets near Bagram airbase in Kabul. The International Security Assistance Force said four service members were killed by "an indirect fire attack."
Not only that but this morning, Afghan President Amid Karzai walked away from bilateral talks with the U.S. to "protest the way his government was being left out of initial peace negotiations with the Taliban meant to find ways to end the nearly 12-year war," the AP reports.
The AP adds:
"In a terse statement from his office, Karzai said negotiations with the U.S. on what American and coalition security forces will remain in the country after 2014 have been put on hold.
"The statement followed an announcement Tuesday by the U.S. and the Taliban that they would pursue bilateral talks in Qatar before the Afghan government was brought in.
"'In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations, currently underway in Kabul between Afghan and U.S. delegations on the bilateral security agreement,' Karzai's statement said."
As The New York Times explains it, the attack was "at best a rocky prelude to peace talks with Taliban." The newspaper frames the story as a struggle between Karzai's government and the Taliban for legitimacy.
Karzai is angry that at the newly opened Doha office, the Taliban are flying a flag and calling the office the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." Meanwhile the Taliban:
"... made clear that they sought to be dealt with as a legitimate political force with a long-term role to play beyond the insurgency. In that sense, in addition to aiding in talks, the actual opening of their office in Qatar — nearly a year and a half after initial plans to open it were announced and then soon after suspended — could be seen as a signal that the Taliban's ultimate aim is recognition as an alternative to the Western-backed government of President Karzai."