KABUL (Dispatches) – The United States and Afghanistan have clashed publicly over Washington’s decision to exclude Kabul from its ongoing talks with the Taliban, a move that a senior Afghan official says is aimed at "delegitimizing” the Afghan government.
National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, who was on a visit to the U.S., said that U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad either "doesn’t know how to negotiate” or has alternative objectives in mind other than peace.
"Knowing Ambassador Khalilzad’s history, his own personal history, he has ambitions in Afghanistan. He was wanting to run for president twice," Mohib said before meeting senior American officials in Washington.
"The perception in Afghanistan and people in government think that perhaps, perhaps all this talk is to create a caretaker government of which he will then become the viceroy," he said.
He warned that Khalilzad’s approach was weakening the Afghan government.
The comments were viewed as Kabul’s most strident public complaints to date over its absence from the talks that were held in Qatar.
The Taliban have reiterated opposition to direct talks with President Ashraf Ghani's administration in Kabul. Ghani has repeatedly stressed that no deal between the Taliban and the U.S. could be finalized without involving his government.
Mohib’s comments did not go down well in Washington, with U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale saying that he would communicate his side’s "displeasure" with Mohib once they meet.
"To the comments themselves, we don't believe they warrant a public response," U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.
On Tuesday, Khalizad said in a number of tweets that it was "clear all sides want to end the war."
The latest round of talks lasted 16 days and finished on Tuesday. Further talks are expected later this month.