Senior Taliban officials and U.S. representatives are due to meet Saturday and Sunday in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Officials from both sides have confirmed issues include reining in extremist groups and the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country. The Taliban have even indicated some flexibility regarding evacuations.
“We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen declared when asked whether the Taliban would work with the U.S. to contain the Islamic State affiliate. He used an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
ISIS has carried out relentless assaults on the country’s Shiites since emerging in eastern Afghanistan in 2014. It is also seen as the terror group that poses the most significant threat to the United States for its potential to stage attacks on American targets.
While the weekend meetings are the first since U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year military presence as the Taliban overran the country, the U.S. has made it clear the talks are not a preamble to recognition.
The talks come on the heels of two days of difficult discussions between Pakistani officials and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Islamabad that focused on Afghanistan. Pakistani officials called for the U.S. to engage with Afghanistan’s new rulers and release billions of dollars in international funds to stave off an economic meltdown.
Pakistan also had a message for the Taliban, urging them to become more inclusive and pay attention to human rights and minority ethnic and religious groups.
A Taliban official in charge of refugees, Mohammed Arsa Kharoti, said there are up to 1.3 million Afghans displaced from past wars and that the Taliban lack funds to organize the return home for all. He said the Taliban have organized the return of 1,005 displaced families to their homes so far.
Shokria Khanm, who had spent several weeks in one of the tents in the park and was waiting Saturday to board the Taliban-organized bus back home to Kunduz, said she isn’t concerned about the growing threat in the northern province.
“At least there we have four walls,” she said but added that she was nervous about the future after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government troops had destroyed her house.
“Winter is on the way. There is no firewood. We need water and food,” she pleaded.
During the Doha talks, U.S. officials will also seek to hold the Taliban to their commitment to allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, along with Afghans who once worked for the U.S. military or government and other Afghan allies, a U.S. official said.