The United States and Afghanistan have clashed publicly over Washington’s decision to exclude Kabul from its ongoing peace 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 US, said Thursday that US peace 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, referring to a politically loaded term in South Asia as it was the title of the colonial administrator of British-ruled India.

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 talks being 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 peace deal between the Taliban and the US could be finalized without involving his government.

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