A U.S. delegation met with senior Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, over the weekend to discuss issues including security, terrorism and human rights, their first direct talks since the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August.
The “candid and professional” discussions covered the need for safe passage of U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals and Afghan partners, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Sunday. The U.S. also called for “the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society.”
“The two sides also discussed the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people,” Price said, adding that “the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words.”
The meetings were among the first formal engagements between the State Department and the Taliban since the U.S. evacuated its diplomats and troops from Kabul. The Biden administration has wrestled with how to deal with the Taliban, which have taken the mantle of Afghanistan’s government but are still officially labeled a terrorist organization and haven’t been given access to Afghanistan’s central bank reserves.
After sweeping to power in late August, the Taliban have seen their authority challenged by Islamic State fighters, prompting fears that the country could descend into civil war once again. More than 40 people were believed killed on Friday after a suspected Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz.
U.S. officials have said they’re still trying to help Afghans who want to flee the country, including vulnerable women and girls and some of the thousands of people who worked with the U.S. government over the course of a 20-year occupation. Several dozen American citizens — mostly of Afghan descent — are also estimated to remain in the country.