US to hold talks with Taliban over easing evacuations

Focus of talks in Qatar will be allowing foreigners and at-risk Afghans to leave Afghanistan, says US official

A female protestor scuffles with a member of the Taliban during a demonstration outside a school in Kabul on 30 September. The US will press the Taliban to observe the rights of women and girls. Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP/Getty Images
US officials will meet senior Taliban figures this weekend for talks aimed at easing the evacuation of foreign citizens and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan, a US official said.

The focus of talks on Saturday and Sunday in Doha, Qatar, would be holding Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders to commitments that they would allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave, along with Afghans who once worked for the US military or government and other Afghan allies, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak by name about the meetings.

The Biden administration has fielded questions and complaints about the slow pace of US-facilitated evacuations from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan since the last US forces and diplomats left there at the end of August.

State department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday that 105 US citizens and 95 green card holders had left since then on flights facilitated by the US. That number had not changed for more than a week.

US veterans and other individuals have helped others leave the country on charter flights, and some Americans and others have got out across land borders. That leaves dozens of American citizens still seeking to get out, according to the state department, along with thousands of green card holders and Afghans and family members believed eligible for US visas.

US officials have cited the difficulty of verifying flight manifests without any American officials on the ground in Afghanistan to help, along with other hold-ups.

The US also intends to press the Taliban to observe the rights of women and girls, many of whom the Taliban are reportedly blocking from returning to jobs and classrooms, and of Afghans at large, and to form an inclusive government, the official said.

US officials will also encourage Taliban officials to give humanitarian agencies free access to areas in need amid the economic upheaval following the US departure and Taliban takeover.

The official stressed the session did not imply the US was recognising the Taliban as legitimate governors of the country.

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