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U.S. Officials and Taliban Engage in First Face-to-face Meeting since U.S. Withdrawal

The talks in Qatar focused on issues including containing extremist groups, the evacuation of U.S. citizens, humanitarian aid and the rights of Afghan women, officials say

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Divya Dhadd
Divya Dhadd
Journalist

UNITED STATES: U.S. officials on Sunday had their first face-to-face meeting with Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban officials since the United States pulled its troops from the country in August and the militant group took over Afghanistan.

The U.S. called the meeting “candid and professional” and that the U.S. side reiterated that the Taliban would be judged on their actions, not just their words.

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Also Read: UK Diplomats Meet Taliban Leaders in Afghanistan

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. delegation in the weekend talks in Doha, Qatar, focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals and Afghans, as well as on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society.

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He said the two sides also discussed “the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people.”

“The discussions were candid and professional with the U.S. delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words,” Price said in a statement on Sunday.

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On Saturday, Qatar-based Al Jazeera television quoted Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister as saying that Taliban representatives asked the U.S. side to lift a ban on Afghan central bank reserves.

Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said Washington would offer Afghans coronavirus vaccines and that the two sides discussed “opening a new page” between the two countries.

Biden administration officials told Reuters on Friday the U.S. delegation would press the Taliban to release kidnapped American Mark Frerichs. Another top priority would be to hold the Taliban to their commitment not to allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for al Qaeda or other extremists.

Neither the U.S. nor the Taliban, have said if any agreements were reached during the talks.

As the talks were taking place in the Qatari capital Doha, in Afghanistan funeral ceremonies were being held for the victims of Friday’s attack.

The suicide bombing at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz on Friday killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 100 others.

“[We] bury the bodies next to each other because we have no choice, and we have to prepare mass graves,” one mourner said.

The United Nations said Friday’s bombing was a “third deadly attack this week apparently targeting a religious institution” and was part of a “disturbing pattern of violence”.

The Said Abad mosque was used by the minority Shia Muslim community in the Sunni Muslim-majority country. The Islamic State group said it was behind the attack.

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