The past 24 hours has provided yet another example of Obama's brilliance in foreign affairs. He is really winning hearts, minds and allies for America. Here is the timeline of news stories relating to Afghanistan.
The Taliban and the U.S. said Tuesday they will hold talks on finding a political solution to ending nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan, as the international coalition formally handed over control of the country's security to the Afghan army and police.
The Taliban met a key U.S. demand by pledging not to use Afghanistan as a base to threaten other countries, although the Americans said they must also denounce al-Qaida.
The Taliban has said it was behind an attack that killed four US troops in Afghanistan, just hours after Washington announced planned talks with the insurgents.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: "Last night two big rockets were launched at Bagram (air base) which hit the target. Four soldiers are dead and six others are wounded. The rockets caused a major fire."
A US defence official said the deaths were caused by insurgent "indirect fire," either mortars or rockets.
Earlier, it was revealed that US representatives could meet the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, within days.
The Islamist group has opened a "political office" in the city and senior Obama administration officials described the move as a stepping stone to full Taliban renouncement of al Qaeda.
They said US and Taliban representatives will hold bilateral meetings, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's High Peace Council expected to follow up with its own talks a few days later.
Taliban representative Mohammed Naeem told a news conference the group wanted good relations with its neighbours.
Afghanistan's president said Wednesday he will not pursue peace talks with the Taliban unless the United States steps out of the negotiations, while also insisting the militant group stop its violent attacks on the ground after it claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed four Americans.
Hamid Karzai's strong response and the Taliban attack deflated hopes for long-stalled talks aimed at ending nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan, just a day after the United States and the Taliban said they would begin initial meetings in Qatar.
Karzai had said Tuesday that he would send representatives from his High Peace Council to Qatar for talks but aides said he changed his mind after objecting to the way the announcement was handled, in particular the Taliban's use of its formal name "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" in opening an office in Doha.
Shafiullah Nooristani, a member of the High Peace Council, told The Associated Press that the use of the name violated agreements Karzai's government had made with the U.S. and caused diplomatic issues for Afghanistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out Wednesday at the United States over the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, pulling out of security talks with U.S. officials and refusing to take part in peace talks with the Taliban that he said would only benefit "foreigners' strategies and goals."
In a statement issued Wednesday, Karzai's office said Taliban rhetoric about continuing to take the fight to Afghan and foreign fighters even as the group pursues a political solution was "completely in contradiction to the assurance that was given to Afghanistan by the United States of America."
He used similar justification for suspending security negotiations with the United States over the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan past the scheduled pullout next year.
Karzai's office said "foreign powers" were behind Tuesday's opening of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar -- where U.S. officials are expected to begin talks with the Taliban on Thursday, according to a source close to the talks who did not want to be identified.
And Karzai appeared to renew earlier claims that the Taliban and Western officials want to destabilize Afghanistan, saying the Taliban polices are "for the well of foreigners' strategies and goals."
Foreign Policy's AfPak Channel summed it up this way:
President Karzai suspends BSA talks as U.S. delegation heads to Taliban office
By Bailey Cahall Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 8:47 AM
Open for business
The Taliban officially opened their office in Doha, Qatar around 6:30 pm Tuesday during a ceremony that included Taliban representatives, Afghan foreign ministry officials, and Qatari officials (NYT, Pajhwok). In a statement, the group said they had opened the office to meet with other Afghans, contact the United Nations and other international agencies, and improve their relations with the international community. The announcement also said the Taliban would welcome every political and peaceful solution that could bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, but made no direct reference to peace talks.
U.S. officials hailed the move as a positive first step and confirmed that Ambassador James Dobbins, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, headed to Qatar Tuesday to begin direct talks with the Taliban as soon as possible (Pajhwok, Pajhwok). Dobbins and his team will first stop in Turkey and then head to Qatar before moving on to Afghanistan and Pakistan. While no official date has been set for the Doha meeting, U.S. senior officials expect it will occur later this week (AFP, Guardian, VOA).
Once the U.S. announced its intention to meet with the Taliban officials in Qatar first, however, President Hamid Karzai protested Wednesday by suspending the countries' fourth-round talks on the Bilateral Security Agreement (AFP, BBC, Pajhwok). Afghan officials said the U.S. precondition that the Taliban renounce violence did not go far enough and should have included a commitment to talk directly with the Karzai government - something the Taliban has been unwilling to do - and an acknowledgement of the Afghan constitution. Karzai also objected to the Taliban calling the office the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" and flying the Taliban flag, believing it gives the insurgent group too much legitimacy (NYT). He has pushed to have the talks moved to Afghanistan, something the U.S. has supported (Pajhwok).
Four coalition service members were killed Tuesday night in an insurgent attack, though neither the exact location of the attack or the victims' identities were revealed in the NATO statement (NYT, Pajhwok). However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid released a statement saying the group had fired two rockets at Bagram Airfield in Parwan province, killing four U.S. soldiers and wounding six others, overshadowing the positive steps taken earlier in the day (AFP). To date, 91 coalition soldiers, including 68 Americans, have been killed across the country.