US, Taliban Delegations To Meet In Doha Today In First Interaction Since Pullout

A United States delegation will meet senior Taliban representatives in Doha on Saturday and Sunday in a first face-to-face meeting at a senior level since the group took over the country in the wake of the withdrawal of American troops.

According to a Reuters report, the American delegation includes officials from the State Department, USAID and the US intelligence community. They are expected to press the Taliban to ensure continued safe passage for US citizens and others out of Afghanistan and to release kidnapped US citizen Mark Frerichs.

A senior US official has said that another top priority will be to hold the Taliban to their commitment that Afghanistan will not be allowed become a hotbed for al Qaeda or other extremist groups

The Taliban will also be pressed to improve access for humanitarian aid as the country faces the prospect of a “really severe and probably impossible to prevent” economic contraction, the US official told Reuters.

US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad will not be part of the delegation, despite being a key figure in negotiating the Doha peace deal.

“This meeting is not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy. We remain clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban’s own actions. They need to establish a sustained track record,” the official said.

Women’s rights will also be on the agenda of US officials in the meeting.

“We will certainly press the Taliban to respect the rights of all Afghans including women and girls and to form an inclusive government with broad support,” the US official said.

He added that there were discrepancies between the Taliban’s promises of continued safe passage and implementation.

“As a practical matter, their implementation of their commitments have been uneven. It is true that sometimes we receive assurances from certain levels but then follow through on those assurances has truly been uneven,” the official said.