US to meet with Taliban representatives in Qatar

US to meet with Taliban representatives in Qatar
© KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

A delegation of U.S. officials will meet with senior Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, this weekend, the first face-to-face meeting between officials on both sides since the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to The Hill.

Two senior administration officials told Reuters that some of the individuals expected to partake in the meetings include Tom West, deputy special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation with the State Department, and Sarah Charles, assistant to the administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

Reuters noted that U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad would not be included in the delegation. He led negotiations on the U.S. side that led to a deal in 2020 with the Taliban that created a timeline that would give the U.S. just over a year to leave Afghanistan, according to CNN.

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It was not immediately clear who on the Taliban side would be attending the talks, but the two senior administration officials told Reuters that members of the Taliban’s cabinet would be at the meeting. 

Reuters first reported on the meeting between the two sides.  

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that key priorities topics to be discussed in the meeting include, “the continued safe passage out of Afghanistan of US and other foreign nationals and Afghans to whom we have a special commitment who seek to leave the country."

"As Afghanistan faces the prospect of a severe economic contraction and possible humanitarian crisis, we will also press the Taliban to allow humanitarian agencies free access to areas of need," the spokesperson added. 

The State Department spokesperson also said that U.S. officials would press the Taliban to make sure that the insurgent group respects all Afghans' rights, especially girls’ and women’s rights, and hold "the Taliban to its commitment not to allow terrorists to use Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States or its allies." 

"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," the spokesperson said in a statement.

The announcement comes as nearly 800 Americans and Afghan allies safely arrived in Qatar from two chartered planes.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the number of Americans who seek to leave Afghanistan continues to be “dynamic” but noted that 105 U.S. citizens and 95 lawful permanent residents had been evacuated through direct facilitation efforts led by the U.S. government since Aug. 31.

Updated Oct. 9, 8:50 p.m.