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Afghan Taliban close their office in Qatar

ISLAMABAD — Afghanistan’s Taliban have shuttered a newly opened office in the Gulf state of Qatar, vowing to fight on against President Hamid Karzai’s government while abandoning a diplomatic approach seen as the best hope of finding a political end to the protracted 12-year war.

Specialists said Tuesday that the final withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014 offers the Taliban the hope of a military victory while limiting their incentive to press ahead with peace talks. The Taliban, they said, envisioned the talks more as a means of gaining legitimacy than as a road to peace.

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‘‘I think the big gorilla in the room is the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It decreases the likelihood of a settlement because it raises the prospects of Taliban military gains,’’ said Seth Jones, a counterinsurgency specialist at the Rand Corp., a Washington-based think tank that receives US funding. ‘‘Settlements usually occur when both sides reach a stalemate and see little prospect for change in the foreseeable future.’’

The Taliban office, which opened less than a month ago to facilitate peace talks with the United States and Afghan government, was mired in controversy from the outset after the religious movement was accused of trying to set up a government-in-exile by identifying its office as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It also hoisted the same white flag flown during the Taliban’s five-year rule of Afghanistan that ended with the 2001 American-led invasion.

Karzai reacted furiously and the Taliban lowered the flag and removed the sign. Both the United States and Qatar quickly chastised the Taliban and accused them of reneging on a promise to refrain from using either the name or the flag.

Now the office itself has been temporarily closed, a Taliban official familiar with the talks in Qatar said.

‘‘They [the Taliban] do not go out of their homes in Doha and have not gone to the office since the removal of the flag and the plaque,’’ the Taliban official said in a telephone interview. He said the Taliban blamed Karzai and the United States for the breakdown in talks, accusing both of using the name and the flag as an excuse.

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