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US officials to meet Taliban in Doha to discuss economy, rights
US officials to meet Taliban in Doha to discuss economy, rights
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US officials to meet Taliban in Doha to discuss economy, rights
by DZRH News29 July 2023
U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Thomas West speaks with Afghan Representative Shah Gul Rezai during a meeting at the Soria Moria hotel in Oslo, Norway January 24, 2022 NTB/Stian Lysberg Solum via REUTERS/File Photo

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. officials will meet Taliban representatives and "technocratic professionals" from Afghan ministries in Doha this week, the State Department said on Wednesday, adding they will discuss economic issues, security and women's rights.

No country has formally recognized the Taliban administration since the group returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021 when U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew in chaos after a 20-year conflict.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West and Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights Rina Amiri will meet a Taliban delegation in Doha to discuss humanitarian support for Afghanistan, security, women's rights, economic stabilisation, and efforts to counter narcotics production and trafficking, the State Department said.

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The department's deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, reiterated U.S. concerns about human rights abuses and the marginalization of women and girls in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and said talks in the Qatari capital did not "mean any kind of indication of recognition or any kind of indication of normalization or legitimacy of the Taliban."

"This does not indicate any change in the policy of the United States. We have been very clear that we will engage with the Taliban appropriately when it is in our interest to do so," Patel said.

A Taliban foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement that acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi would lead the delegation.

"Afghanistan's priority during talks are ending sanctions and blacklists, unfreezing Afghanistan's bank reserves and stopping violation of Afghanistan's airspace," the ministry said, adding they would also meet Qatari officials.

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The chaotic evacuation of U.S. troops in 2021 saw thousands of desperate Afghans trying to enter Kabul airport and men clinging to aircraft as they taxied down runways. An Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and more than 150 Afghans outside an airport gate.

A State Department report last month criticized Democratic President Joe Biden and his Republican predecessor Donald Trump for the pullout, which was negotiated by Trump and executed under Biden.

Before their Qatar visit, West and Amiri will travel to Kazakhstan where they will meet officials from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to discuss Afghanistan, the State Department said.

They would also meet civil society members focused on women's rights.

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Their trip to Kazakhstan and Qatar is from July 26 to July 31, the State Department said.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis, Jibran Ahmad and Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Paul Grant and Daniel Wallis, Robert Birsel)

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