High-level U.S. delegation to meet Taliban: officials

Qatar hosted U.S.-Taliban meetings in 2019. (Reuters photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — A high-level U.S. delegation will meet with senior Taliban representatives in Doha on Saturday and Sunday, Reuters reported.

The delegation will include officials from the State Department, USAID and the U.S. Intelligence community, two senior administration officials told Reuters.

It will press the Taliban to ensure continued safe passage for U.S. citizens and others out of Afghanistan and to release kidnapped U.S. citizen Mark Frerichs, the officials said.

They added that another top priority would be to hold the Taliban to its commitment that will not allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for al Qaeda or other extremists.

It will also press the group to improve access for humanitarian aid as the country faces the prospect of a “really severe and probably impossible to prevent” economic contraction, according to Reuters.

“This meeting is a continuation of the pragmatic engagements with the Taliban that we’ve had ongoing on matters of vital national interest,” Reuters cited a senior administration official as saying.

“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 United States’ two decades-long occupation of Afghanistan culminated in a hastily organized airlift in August which saw more than 124,000 civilians including Americans, Afghans and others evacuated as the Taliban took over. But thousands of other U.S.-allied Afghans at risk of Taliban persecuting were left behind.

While the Taliban has promised to be more inclusive than when it led the country from 1996 to 2001, the United States has repeatedly said it will judge the new Taliban government based on its deeds not its words.

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