Angry voices within the Taliban movement could scuttle peace talks before they even begin, infuriated that a sign identifying their new office in Qatar as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was removed, said their spokesman on Saturday.
The opening of the Taliban office was heralded as the best chance of bringing to a peaceful end 12 years of bloody war despite its rocky beginnings.
But the peace process ran aground almost immediately when Kabul objected to the wording of its name, saying it was tantamount to the establishment of a rival government office, not a political office.
Under pressure from host nation Qatar, the Taliban removed the sign and lowered their flag— a white flag emblazoned with a Koranic verse in black — out of public view on Wednesday.
“There is an internal discussion right now and much anger about it but we have not yet decided what action to take,” Shaheen Suhail, the Taliban’s spokesman in Qatar told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai had reacted furiously on Tuesday to the sign, temporarily withdrawing from talks and putting a quick end to negotiations with the U.S..
In Kabul, a member of the government’s negotiation team said it was still prepared to begin talks in Qatar and said the removal of the sign and flag was a positive sign.
Meanwhile James Dobbins, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, arrived in Doha on Saturday where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was attending meetings on Syria.
His presence suggested that the U.S. remains interested in talking with the Taliban despite the recent flap.
Suhail said the Taliban had not been notified of talks with Mr. Dobbins but advocated for cooler heads to prevail. While the “internal talks” continued, the Taliban were cobbling together a negotiating team, he said.
He also said that a ceasefire and women’s rights could be part of negotiations but warned all sides to step away from voicing criticism. “Yes there should be a ceasefire but first we have to talk about how to reach a cease—fire. How can it be done in one day?” he said.