Afghan talks over before they’ve begun?

I was pretty sceptical about the chances of success of this latest bout of Afghan peacemaking. Here’s my take from first thing this morning:

You don’t need to know much about Afghanistan, the nature of extremist movements or world affairs in general to understand one important principle: Never mind what they say, what are they doing?………

But even I didn’t expect them to start coming a cropper this afternoon, less than 24 hours after they had been announced

President Hamid Karzai has plunged Afghan peace talks into doubt by threatening to boycott the process unless militants end their violence and the United States pull out of negotiations, in protest at the raising of the Taliban flag over their office in Qatar.

Surely this has been weeks in the planning and a lot of effort will have gone into making sure President Karzai was on board. He has always said he wanted the process to be Afghan-led and that the Taliban should renounce their ties to al-Qaeda. Those two issues will need to have been handled sensitively.

So what went wrong?

I have not an ounce of evidence for this. But let’s speculate for a moment. What if after the shambles of the G8 discussions on Syria an alternative breakthrough was needed in a hurry and a few corners were cut? Anyway, even by Afghanistan’s poor standards of talking peace, this is disastrous.

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