U.S. delegation to meet Taliban in first talks since pullout, officials say

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (C) addresses a media convention on the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021.

Wakil Kohsar | AFP | Getty Photographs

A U.S. delegation will meet with senior Taliban representatives in Doha on Saturday and Sunday of their first face-to-face assembly at a senior stage since Washington pulled its troops from Afghanistan and the hardline group took over the nation, two senior administration officers instructed Reuters.

The high-level U.S. delegation will embrace officers from the State Division, USAID and the U.S. intelligence group, will press the Taliban to make sure continued protected passage for U.S. residents and others out of Afghanistan and to launch kidnapped U.S. citizen Mark Frerichs, the officers mentioned.

One other prime precedence can be to carry the Taliban to its dedication that it’ll not enable Afghanistan to once more develop into a hotbed for al Qaeda or different extremists whereas urgent the group to enhance entry for humanitarian assist because the nation faces the prospect of a “actually extreme and possibly unattainable to forestall” financial contraction, U.S. officers mentioned.

U.S. Particular Consultant Zalmay Khalilzad, who has for years spearheaded U.S. dialogue with the Taliban and been a key determine in peace talks with the group, won’t be a part of the delegation.

The U.S. group will embrace the State Division’s Deputy Particular Consultant Tom West in addition to prime USAID humanitarian official Sarah Charles. On The Taliban facet, cupboard officers can be attending, officers mentioned.

“This assembly is a continuation of the pragmatic engagements with the Taliban that we have had ongoing on issues of important nationwide curiosity,” mentioned a senior administration official, talking on the situation of anonymity.

“This assembly will not be about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy. We stay clear that any legitimacy have to be earned by means of the Taliban’s personal actions. They should set up a sustained observe report,” the official mentioned.

The USA’ two-decades-long occupation of Afghanistan culminated in a swiftly organized airlift in August which noticed greater than 124,000 civilians together with Individuals, Afghans and others being evacuated because the Taliban took over. However hundreds of different U.S.-allied Afghans vulnerable to Taliban persecution had been left behind.

Washington and different Western international locations are grappling with troublesome decisions as a extreme humanitarian disaster looms giant over Afghanistan. They’re attempting to formulate how one can have interaction with the Taliban with out granting it the legitimacy it seeks whereas making certain humanitarian assist flows into the nation.

Many Afghans have began promoting their possessions to pay for ever-scarcer meals.

The departure of U.S.-led forces and plenty of worldwide donors robbed the nation of grants that financed 75% of public spending, in keeping with the World Financial institution.

Whereas there was an enchancment for humanitarian actors get entry to some areas that they have not been in a decade, issues nonetheless persevered, the U.S. official mentioned, including that the U.S. delegation would press Taliban to enhance.

“Proper now, we face some actual entry points….There are plenty of challenges in making certain that feminine assist staff are supplied unimpeded entry to all areas,” the official mentioned and added that Washington wanted to see an enchancment by the Taliban on this entrance “if we’re to ponder much more strong humanitarian help.”

Strain on girls’s rights

Whereas the Taliban has promised to be extra inclusive than when it led the nation from 1996 to 2001, america has repeatedly mentioned it’ll choose the brand new Taliban authorities primarily based on its deeds not its phrases.

The Taliban drew from its interior excessive echelons to fill prime posts in Afghanistan’s new provisional authorities introduced final month, together with an affiliate of the Islamist militant group’s founder as premier and a needed man on a U.S. terrorism listing as inside minister. There have been no outsiders and no girls within the cupboard.

The European Union overseas coverage chief mentioned on Sunday its habits thus far was “not very encouraging.”

“We will definitely press the Taliban to respect the rights of all Afghans together with girls and women and to type an inclusive authorities with broad help,” the U.S. official mentioned.

He added that there have been discrepancies between the Taliban’s guarantees of continued protected passage and implementation.

“As a sensible matter, their implementation of their commitments have been uneven. It’s true that generally we obtain assurances from sure ranges however then observe by means of on these assurances has really been uneven,” the official mentioned.

The USA has instantly facilitated the departure of 105 U.S. residents and 95 lawful everlasting residents out of Afghanistan since Aug. 31, when U.S. withdrawal was accomplished, State Division spokesperson Ned Worth mentioned on Thursday.

He declined to offer a exact determine for these remaining, however mentioned the company was involved with “dozens of Individuals in Afghanistan who want to depart” however that the quantity was dynamic and continuously altering.

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