The Afghan government has backed out of talks with the Taliban, hours after the militant group opened an office for peace talks in Doha.

Piqued by the unfurling of the Taliban flag and the attribution of the name, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, to its office opened on Tuesday, the government of President Hamid Karzai conveyed to the U.S. in no uncertain terms that the process of granting symbolic political legitimacy to the Taliban must stop.

‘Afghans should lead’

Mr. Karzai asserted on Wednesday that the High Peace Council — the organisation set up in 2010 to hold peace talks with the Taliban — would not travel to Doha unless the talks were led by the Afghans themselves. “As long as the peace process is not Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in the talks in Qatar,” said Mr. Karzai in a statement. The Afghan government’s decision to stay away implied that the Taliban and the Americans alone will be talking to each other in the Qatari capital on Thursday.

Reuters is quoting an Afghan official as saying the office in Doha had given the Taliban “an official identity”, which the Kabul government found objectionable. “The Taliban’s flag and the banner of the Islamic Emirate was something we did not expect,” the official was quoted as saying.

The Afghan government drove home its message that it was unhappy with the Americans’ business-as-usual attitude with the Talban when it announced that it was suspending talks with Washington on stationing fewer troops in the country after the formal withdrawal of U.S-led NATO forces at the end of 2014.

U.S. troops killed

The Americans were also under fire from the Taliban later on Tuesday. Soon after opening their Doha office, the Taliban killed four American troops near Kabul, sending a clear message to Washington that it was in no position to impose its will on steering Afghanistan’s political transition.

A statement issued by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid signalled that the attack on the Americans was a deliberate decision, and not hyper-activism of a fringe group.

“Last night two big rockets were launched at Bagram which hit the target. Four soldiers are dead and six others are wounded. The rockets caused a major fire,” Mujahid announced.