International

US, Taliban to hold first talks after Afghanistan return

By The Associated Press

ISLAMABAD: Senior Taliban officials and US representatives are expected to hold talks on Saturday and Sunday, October 9 and 10, about stopping extremist groups in Afghanistan and easing the evacuation of foreign nationals and Afghans from the country, officials from both sides said. .

It is the first such meeting since US forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence there, and the Taliban’s rise to power in the nation. The talks are to be held in Doha, the capital of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who is based in Doha, told the Associated Press on Saturday that talks would also revisit the peace deal signed by the Taliban with Washington in 2020. The agreement had paved the way for the eventual American withdrawal.

“Yes, there has been a meeting regarding bilateral relations and implementation of the Doha Agreement,” Shaheen said. “It covers a variety of topics.”

The talks will also include terrorism, a second official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Since the Taliban took power, Islamic State extremists have intensified attacks on the terrorist group, as well as ethnic and religious minorities. On Friday, an IS suicide bomber killed at least 46 minority Shia Muslims and wounded dozens in the deadliest attack since the US departure.

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 the United States.

The 2020 US-Taliban agreement, which was negotiated by the Trump administration, calls on the Taliban to sever ties with terrorist groups and guarantees that Afghanistan will never again harbor terrorists who attack the United States and its allies. can attack.

The two sides are expected to discuss how to deal with the escalating threat during the weekend’s talks. The Taliban have said they do not want US counter-terrorism aid and warned Washington against any so-called “over-the-horizon” attacks on Afghan territory from outside the country’s borders.

In the meantime, the United States wants to hold Taliban leaders to commitments that they will allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, as well as Afghans who have never been to the US military or government and other Afghan allies, a US official said. used to work.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak by name 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.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that 105 US citizens and 95 green card holders had since been moved by the US on convenient flights, a number that had not changed for more than a week.
American veterans and other individuals have helped others leave the country on charter flights, and some Americans and others have crossed land borders.

Hundreds of other foreign nationals and Afghans have also left on recent flights.

Dozens of US citizens are still seeking exit, according to the State Department, with thousands of green-card holders and Afghans and family members deemed eligible for US visas. US officials have cited difficulty verifying flight manifests without any US officials on the ground in Afghanistan to help, among other hold-ups.

The official said the Americans also intend to pressure the Taliban to abide by the rights of women and girls, many of whom the Taliban are reportedly preventing from returning to jobs and classes, and Afghans at large, and To form an inclusive government, the official said.

US officials will also encourage Taliban officials to give humanitarian agencies free access to areas in need amid economic turmoil following the US departure and the Taliban takeover.

The official stressed that the session does not mean that the US is recognizing the Taliban as the country’s legitimate governors.

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