A US delegation will meet with senior Taliban representatives in Doha on Saturday and Sunday in their first one-on-one meeting at a senior level as Washington pulls its troops from Afghanistan and the radical group takes over the country, two senior administrations officials told Reuters.
Officials said the high-level US delegation, which will include officials from the State Department, USAID and the US intelligence community, will pressure the Taliban to ensure a safe passage for US citizens and others from Afghanistan and to release the kidnapped US citizen Mark Frerichs . .
Another top priority will be for the Taliban to uphold its commitment that it will never allow Afghanistan to become a hotbed for al Qaeda or other extremists again, while pressuring the group to improve access to humanitarian aid. The country is facing the prospect of a “really serious”. And it is probably impossible to stop” economic contraction, US officials said.
US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, who has led US talks with the Taliban for years and has been a key figure in peace talks with the group, will not be part of the delegation.
The US team will include State Department Deputy Special Representative Tom West as well as top USAID humanitarian officer Sarah Charles. Officials said cabinet officials would participate from the Taliban side.
“This meeting is a continuation of the practical engagement with the Taliban that we have continued on matters of important national interest,” a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.
“This meeting is not about granting recognition or legitimacy. We are clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban’s own actions. They need to establish a consistent track record,” the official said. “
The United States’ two-decade-long occupation of Afghanistan culminated in a hastily organized airlift in August that evacuated more than 124,000 civilians, including Americans, Afghans and others, after the Taliban came to power. But thousands of other US-affiliated Afghans were left behind under the threat of Taliban persecution.
Washington and other Western countries are grappling with tough choices as a serious humanitarian crisis looms large over Afghanistan. They are trying to work out how to engage with the Taliban without giving them legitimacy while ensuring the flow of humanitarian aid into the country.
Many Afghans have always started selling their possessions to pay for less food.
According to the World Bank, the departure of the US-led military and several international donors robbed the country of grants, which financed 75% of public spending.
The US official said that although humanitarian actors have improved in gaining access to some areas where they have not been in a decade, problems still remain, with the US delegation pressing the Taliban to reform.
“Right now, we are facing some real access issues. There are a lot of challenges in ensuring that women support workers are given unhindered access to all areas,” the official said. Taliban on this front “if we consider even stronger humanitarian aid.”
pressure on women’s rights
While the Taliban have promised to be more inclusive than they led the country from 1996 to 2001, the United States has repeatedly stated that it will judge the new Taliban government on the basis of its actions, not its words. On the basis.
The Taliban drew from their internal high echelons to fill top positions in Afghanistan’s new provisional government announced last month, with an ally of the Islamic militant group’s founder as chief and a wanted on a US terrorism list as interior minister. person was involved. There were no outsiders and no women in the cabinet.
The EU’s foreign policy chief said on Sunday that his behavior so far was “not very encouraging”.
“We will certainly put pressure on the Taliban to respect the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, and form an inclusive government with broad support,” the US official said.
He said there were discrepancies between the Taliban’s promises of continued safe passage and implementation.
“Practically, the implementation of their commitments has been uneven. It is true that sometimes we get assurances from some level, but the implementation of those assurances has actually been uneven,” the official said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the US has facilitated the departure of 105 US citizens and 95 lawful permanent residents from Afghanistan since August 31, when the US withdrawal was completed.
He declined to provide an exact figure for the remaining people, but said the agency was “in contact with dozens of Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave” but that the number was dynamic and constantly changing.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)