A delegation of US officials will meet with the Taliban in Doha this Saturday and Sunday, Reuters reported on Friday. The meetings will mark the first face-to-face high-level talks between the US and the Taliban since the US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Two Biden administration officials told Reuters that officials from the State Department, USAID, and the “intelligence community” will be traveling to Doha. Zalmay Khalilzad, who led negotiations with the Taliban that resulted in the withdrawal, will not be attending the talks. The Taliban delegation will consist of cabinet members of the new interim Afghan government.
The officials said the US delegation will focus on ensuring the Taliban allows safe passage for any US citizens that want to leave Afghanistan. The US will also discuss the Taliban’s commitment to not allowing groups like al-Qaeda or ISIS to gain a foothold in Afghanistan. Since the US withdrawal, the Taliban have been fighting the local ISIS affiliate, known as ISIS-K.
The US delegation will also discuss the current food and cash shortages in Afghanistan. One Biden administration official said the meetings will not be about possible US recognition of the Taliban-led government.
“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.
The US has frozen billions in Afghan government reserves and is using its power over the global financial system as leverage over the Taliban. For their part, the Taliban have called for the US to establish diplomatic relations with the new Afghan government and reopen its embassy in Kabul.