Felipe Dana / AP
ISLAMABAD (AP) – Senior Taliban officials and U.S. officials are due to meet on Saturday and Sunday to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan and facilitate the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country, officials on both sides said.
This is the first such meeting since the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence there and the rise to power of the Taliban in the country. The talks are due to take place in Doha, the capital of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.
Doha-based Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press on Saturday that the talks will also review the peace deal the Taliban signed with Washington in 2020. The deal paved the way for the final decision of the United States. Withdrawal.
“Yes, there is a meeting … on bilateral relations and the implementation of the Doha agreement,” Shaheen said. “It covers various topics.
Terrorism will also feature in the talks, said a second official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Since the Taliban took power, Islamic State extremists have stepped up attacks against the militant group, as well as against ethnic and religious minorities. On Friday, an IS suicide bomber killed at least 46 minority Shia Muslims and injured dozens in the deadliest attack since leaving the United States.
IS has carried out relentless assaults on the country’s Shia Muslims since its emergence in eastern Afghanistan in 2014. IS is also considered the greatest threat to the United States.
The 2020 US-Taliban deal, which was negotiated by the Trump administration, required the Taliban to sever ties with terrorist groups and ensured that Afghanistan would no longer harbor terrorists who could attack the United States and their allies.
It looks certain that the two sides will discuss in weekend talks how to deal with the growing threat. The Taliban have said they do not want US counterterrorism aid and warned Washington against any strikes “on the horizon” on Afghan territory from outside the country’s borders.
The United States, meanwhile, is reportedly seeking to force Taliban leaders to pledge to allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, as well as Afghans who have previously worked for the military or government. US and other Afghan allies, a US official said.
The manager spoke on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorized to speak by name at meetings.
The Biden administration has responded to questions and complaints about the slow pace of US-facilitated evacuations from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan since the US withdrawal.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that 105 U.S. citizens and 95 green card holders have since departed on U.S.-facilitated flights. This number had not changed for over a week.
American veterans and others 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 U.S. citizens are still seeking exit, according to the State Department, along with thousands of green card holders and Afghans and their family members considered eligible for U.S. visas. US officials cited the difficulty of checking flight manifests without any US officials on the ground in Afghanistan to help, as well as other delays.
The Americans also intend to pressure the Taliban to respect the rights of women and girls, many of whom would prevent the Taliban from returning to work and into classrooms, and Afghans in general, and for form an inclusive government, the official said.
U.S. officials will also encourage Taliban officials to give aid agencies free access to areas in need amid the economic upheavals that followed the U.S. departure and the Taliban takeover.
The official stressed that the session does not imply that the United States recognizes the Taliban as the legitimate governors of the country.