Two senior U.S. administration officials said a U.S. delegation will meet with prominent Taliban representatives in Doha on Saturday and Sunday, in the first direct high-level meeting since Washington withdrew its forces from Afghanistan and the movement took control of the country.
The two officials added that the high-level US delegation will include officials from the US State Department, the US Agency for International Development and US intelligence agencies.
A member of the Taliban in Kabul
The delegation will pressure the Taliban to ensure they continue to provide safe passage for US citizens and others outside of Afghanistan, and for the release of the kidnapped US citizen there, Mark Frerichs.
The two officials added that the other priority issue is to get the Taliban to honor their commitments, that it will not allow Afghanistan to once again become a bastion of the terrorist organization. Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups.
The delegation will also push for better access to aid for citizens, as the country faces the prospect of a “really serious and potentially unstoppable” economic downturn.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy to Afghanistan, will not be part of the delegation. For years, Khalilzad led the American dialogue with the Taliban and was also a key figure in the peace talks with the Taliban.
“This meeting is a continuation of practical engagement with the Taliban, which we are doing on issues vital to national security,” said a senior US administration official, speaking under the guise of anonymity.
“This meeting is not intended to grant recognition or legitimation. We are still convinced that legitimacy must be acquired through the actions of the Taliban,” he explained.