Senior Taliban officials and U.S. representatives are to meet Saturday and Sunday in Doha, the capital of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. Officials from both sides have said issues include reining in extremist groups and the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country. The Taliban have signaled flexibility on evacuations.
Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press there would be no cooperation with Washington on going after the increasingly active Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan. IS has taken responsibility for a number of attacks, including a suicide bombing that killed 46 minority Shiite Muslims and wounded dozens as they prayed in a mosque.
“We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, when asked whether the Taliban would work with the U.S. to contain the Islamic State affiliate. He used an Arabic acronym for IS.
IS has carried out relentless assaults on the country’s Shiite Muslims since emerging in eastern Afghanistan in 2014. IS is also seen as the greatest threat to the United States.
The weekend meetings in Doha are the first since U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence, and the Taliban rose to power in the nation. The U.S. has made it clear the talks are not a preamble to recognition.
The talks also come on the heels of two days of difficult discussions between Pakistani officials and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Islamabad. The focus of those talks was also Afghanistan. Pakistani officials urged 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 its minority ethnic and religious groups.