US to hold first meeting with Taliban since Afghan withdrawal
The United States and the Taliban will hold their first in-person talks since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan starting Saturday, the State Department said.
The US delegation will meet Saturday and Sunday in the Qatari capital Doha with senior Taliban representatives, a State Department spokesperson said.
The United States has remained in contact with the Taliban since the longtime foes seized Kabul in August as US troops pulled out but the meeting will be the first that is face to face.
“We will press the Taliban to respect the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, and to form an inclusive government with broad support,” the spokesperson said Friday.
“As Afghanistan faces the prospect of a severe economic contraction and possible humanitarian crisis, we will also press the Taliban to allow humanitarian agencies free access to areas of need,” he said.
The State Department stressed that the meeting did not indicate that the United States was recognizing Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
“We remain clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban’s own actions,” the spokesperson said.
Letting US citizens leave
The US team will also press President Joe Biden’s key priority of letting US citizens and Afghan allies during the 20-year military operation leave the country.
The United States says that the Taliban have largely cooperated on letting out US citizens. Around 100 remain, predominantly US citizens with roots in Afghanistan who are undecided on whether to leave, according to US officials.
But the United States acknowledges that it was not able to get out most Afghan allies who wanted to leave during a hasty airlift that pulled tens of thousands of people out of Kabul before the withdrawal.
The spokesperson did not specify who would represent the two sides. Senior US officials including Central Command chief General Frank McKenzie met with the Taliban in Kabul in August as US troops took over the airport for the airlift.