Taliban, US officials meet for talks in Doha; first since Taliban takeover

Senior Taliban leaders and US officials are in Doha holding direct face-to-face talks-- for the first time since the former seized power in Afghanistan--in the backdrop of the rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis and the threat posed by ISKP

Oct 10, 2021
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Taliban, US officials meet for talks in Doha

Senior Taliban leaders and US officials are in Doha holding direct face-to-face talks-- for the first time since the former seized power in Afghanistan--in the backdrop of the rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis and the threat posed by ISKP. 

Talks that started on Saturday will continue today, with the Taliban seeking to unfreeze Afghan national reserves, blocked by the US after the 15 August takeover, and delisting of its leaders from the UN sanction list promised under the 2020 Doha Agreement.

However, the group headed by Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Ameer Khan Muttaqi’s immediate task remains to get much-needed humanitarian aid. Prices of essentials have skyrocketed in the country and there is an acute shortage of critical medical and other supplies as well.

On the other hand, the US officials are believed to have insisted on more inclusive government, women’s rights, including education for girls, and counter-terrorism assurance. 

Terror concerns grow as the ISIS, Taliban’s fierce jihadi rival, stepped up its attacks, with the latest being the Shia mosque bombing in Kunduz which killed over 130 people and injured 200. 

Taliban’s spokesperson Suhail Shaheen confirmed the Doha agreement and terrorism concerns were figured in the talks. However, he ruled out joining hands with the US in suppressing the assertive and emboldened ISIS-K in the country. The group, he claimed, is capable of containing the ISIS threat on its own.  

Media reports, citing sources in the Biden administration, confirmed the US will explore the possibility of over the horizon mission in Afghanistan during talks with Taliban leaders. The issue of continued safe passage for foreigners and those Afghans wishing to leave the country is also under discussion. 

The interim government announced by the Taliban failed to satisfy the international community’s concern regarding the inclusivity or adequate representation of different ethnic groups and leaders associated with the erstwhile government. 

Significantly, Zalmay Khalilzad, a Trump administration appointee--later retained by the Biden administration-- who negotiated the Doha agreement with the Taliban leaders, is not part of the US delegation holding talks with the Taliban in Doha. 

(SAM)