U.S., Taliban to hold first talks since Afghanistan withdrawal

“Yes, there is a meeting … on bilateral relations and the implementation of the Doha Agreement,” said Shaheen. “It covers different topics.”

Terrorism will also play a role in the talks, said a second official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media.

Since the Taliban came to power, Islamic State extremists have intensified attacks on the militant group and on ethnic and religious minorities. On Friday, an IS suicide bomber killed at least 46 Shiite minorities and injured dozen in the deadliest attack since the United States withdrew.

Since its emergence in eastern Afghanistan in 2014, ISIS has carried out relentless attacks on the country’s Shiite Muslims. IS is also seen as the greatest threat to the US.

The 2020 US-Taliban deal, negotiated by the Trump administration, required the Taliban to cut ties with terrorist groups and guarantee that Afghanistan would no longer host terrorists who could attack the US and its allies.

It seems certain that in the weekend talks the two sides will discuss how to counter the growing threat. The Taliban have declared that they do not want US anti-terrorist aid and are warning Washington of so-called “over-the-horizon” attacks on Afghan territory from outside the country’s borders.

The United States, meanwhile, would seek to keep Taliban leaders committed to allowing Americans and other foreigners to leave Afghanistan, along with Afghans who once worked for the US military or the US government and other Afghan allies said a US official.

The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as the person was not allowed to speak by name at the meetings.

The Biden administration has picked up questions and complaints about the slow pace of US-backed 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.-backed flights. That number has not changed for more than a week.

U.S. veterans and others have helped others get out of the country on charter flights, and some Americans and others have crossed land borders.

Hundreds of other foreigners and Afghans have also left in recent flights.

According to the State Department, dozens of American citizens are still trying to leave along with thousands of green card holders, as well as Afghans and family members eligible for a US visa. US officials have cited the difficulty of checking flight manifests without US officials on the ground in Afghanistan, along with other raids.

The Americans also intend to urge the Taliban to respect the rights of women and girls, many of whom the Taliban reportedly prevent from returning to workplaces and classrooms, and of Afghans as a whole and to form an inclusive government, the official said .

US officials will also encourage Taliban officials to provide free access to areas in need for humanitarian organizations during the economic upheaval following the US withdrawal and the Taliban takeover.

The official said the meeting did not mean that the US would recognize the Taliban as the country’s legitimate governors.

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