ISLAMABAD: The Taliban on Saturday rejected cooperation with the US to stop extremist groups in Afghanistan, taking a firm stance on a key issue ahead of the first direct talks between the former foes since the US withdrew from the country in August.
Senior Taliban officials and US representatives are due to meet on Saturday and Sunday in Doha, the capital of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.
Officials on both sides have said the issues include reining in extremist groups and evacuating foreign nationals and Afghans from the country.
The Taliban have indicated flexibility on the evacuation.
Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said there would be no cooperation with Washington after it was affiliated with the increasingly active Islamic State group in Afghanistan.
IS has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including a suicide bombing that killed 46 minority Shia Muslims and injured dozens as they offered prayers at a mosque.
Asked if the Taliban would work with the US to become affiliated with the Islamic State, Shaheen said, “We are capable of dealing with Daesh independently.”
He used an Arabic acronym for IS.
IS has launched repeated attacks on the country’s Shia Muslims since it emerged in eastern Afghanistan in 2014.
IS is also seen as the biggest threat to America.
The weekend meetings in Doha are the first since US forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence, and the Taliban came to power in the nation.
The US has made it clear that the talks are not a prelude to recognition.
The talks are taking place in Islamabad after two days of difficult discussions between Pakistani officials and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Afghanistan was also the focus of those talks.
Pakistani officials urged the United States to release billions of dollars of international funds to engage with Afghanistan’s new rulers and avoid an economic downturn.
Pakistan also had a message for the Taliban, urging them to become more inclusive and pay attention to human rights and its minority ethnic and religious groups.
Afghanistan’s Shia clerics attacked Taliban rulers after Friday’s attack, demanding more security at their places of worship.
The IS ally claimed responsibility and identified the attacker as a Uighur Muslim.
The claim said the attack targeted both Shias and the Taliban because of their alleged desire to expel Uighurs to satisfy China’s demands.
It was the deadliest attack since foreign troops left Afghanistan in late August.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the US-based Wilson Center, said Friday’s attack could be a harbinger of more violence.
Most Uyghur militants belong to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has for decades found a safe haven in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“If (IS) claims are true, China’s concerns about terrorism in (Afghanistan) will increase, to which the Taliban claims to be receptive,” he tweeted after the attack. Billion Belt and Road Initiative project connecting Beijing with Central and South Asia.
They are prepared to ignore China’s persecution of its Muslim Uighur population.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid last month described the Chinese project as the most important economic undertaking in the region.
A US official said that during the Doha talks, US officials will try to hold Taliban leaders for commitments that they will allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, as well as Afghans who may never leave the US military or government and other Afghan allies. used to work for, said a US official. .
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on record about the meetings.
The Biden administration has filed questions and complaints about the slow pace of a smooth US evacuation from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan since the US withdrawal.