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Posted On: 9 July 2013 02:29 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:13 pm

Taliban shuts Doha office after flag row

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Militant Islamic group the Taliban has closed its Qatar office after it had been open for less than a month, following a dispute over a flag, it was reported on Tuesday. A diplomat and official for the fundamentalist organisation, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until being ousted by US-led invasion in 2001, confirmed the temporary closure to the Associated Press. The shuttering of the Doha office comes following a diplomatic spat over the flying of a white flag at the compound and a plaque which identified the movement as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. This had led to concerns that the Taliban was seeking to establish the office into a ‘government-in-exile’. The opening of the office was seen as a practical step that could pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban, the US and Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul. The Taliban has until now refused talks with Kabul, calling Karzai and his administration puppets of the West. But a senior Afghan official had previously said the Taliban was willing to consider talks with the government. In its talks with the US officials, the Taliban was expected to demand the return of former senior commanders now detained at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a move opposed by many in the US Congress, as well as the departure of all foreign troops. The US wants the return of the only known US prisoner of war from the conflict, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who is believed to be held by the Taliban. Last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the group's new office in Qatar may have to be closed if peace negotiation efforts failed.