A view of the new Taliban political office in Doha. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous)

There's confidence in Washington that peace talks with the Taliban will begin in the coming days. They were supposed to begin Thursday in Doha, Qatar, but a blazing diplomatic row between Washington and Kabul got in the way. The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was incensed over the way the Taliban opened their first international office in Doha on Tuesday. They raised the flag of the old Taliban state, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and even put the name on a plaque outside the building that houses their new office, a comfortable villa in Doha's diplomatic district. Kabul took that to mean the Taliban were presenting this as an embassy of a legitimate government-in-waiting, says the BBC's Aleem Maqbool. Sources in Washington say the Taliban had given assurances they would not do this. And pressure on the Taliban from their Qatari hosts has forced them to remove the plaque and the flag. "But the pole is still there," says Maqbool. "We looked through a gap in the wall, and they've shortened the flagpole, but the flag is still flying." Maqbool says US officials in Doha are confident Karzai is back on board, but the prospects for a rapid start of the talks are not looking good, he adds.

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