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US delegation to meet Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in first high-level talks since withdrawal

The high-level U.S. delegation will include officials from the State Department, USAID and the U.S. intelligence community. Officials said they will press the IEA to ensure continued safe passage for U.S. citizens and others out of Afghanistan and to release kidnapped U.S. citizen Mark Frerichs, the officials said.

Another top priority will be to hold the IEA to its commitment that it will not allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups while pressing the group to improve access for humanitarian aid.

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, who has for years spearheaded U.S. dialogue with the IEA and who has been a key figure in peace talks, will not be part of the delegation.

“This meeting is a continuation of the pragmatic engagements with the Taliban (IEA) that we’ve had ongoing on matters of vital national interest,” said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“This meeting is not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy. We remain clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban’s (IEA’s) own actions. They need to establish a sustained track record,” the U.S. official told Reuters.