WASHINGTON: The United States said the first face-to-face meeting between senior US and Taliban officials since the hardline group retook power in Afghanistan was “candid and professional” and reiterated that the Taliban would be judged on their actions, not just their words.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US delegation in the weekend talks in Doha, Qatar, focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for US citizens, other foreign nationals and Afghans, as well as on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society.
He said the two sides also discussed “the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people.” “The discussions were candid and professional with the U.S. delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words,” Price said in a statement.
On Saturday, Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister was quoted as saying that Taliban representatives asked the US side to lift a ban on Afghan central bank reserves. It said the minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, also said Washington would offer Afghans coronavirus vaccines and that the two sides discussed “opening a new page” between the two countries.
Biden administration officials said on Friday the US delegation would press the Taliban to release kidnapped American Mark Frerichs. Another top priority would be to hold the Taliban to their commitment not to allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups.
The US officials said the weekend meeting was a continuation of “pragmatic engagements” with the Taliban and “not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy” to the group.
US officials say they are in contact with dozens of Americans and legal permanent residents who wish to leave Afghanistan and there are thousands of US-allied Afghans at risk of Taliban persecution still in the country.
Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan. They are trying to work out how to engage with the Taliban without granting the group the legitimacy it seeks while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.
The Taliban announced its all-male cabinet last month but has struggled to govern amid a liquidity crisis after it was cut off from the international financial institutions, such as IMF and World Bank. The group has said it needs to pay government employees and provide services to Afghans amid a looming economic and humanitarian crisis.