US says Taliban talks in Doha were 'candid and professional'

Taliban delegates meet with Qatar delegates in Doha, Qatar, in this handout photo uploaded to social media on October 9, 2021. Reuters
The United States said on Sunday the first face-to-face meeting between senior US and Taliban officials since the hardline group retook power in Afghanistan was "candid and professional" and that the US side reiterated that the Taliban would be judged on their actions, not just their words.

A State Department statement said the US delegation in the weekend talks in Doha, Qatar, focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for US citizens, other foreign nationals and Afghans, as well as on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society.

It said the two sides also discussed US humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

"The discussions were candid and professional with the US delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words," the statement said.

On Saturday, Afghanistan's acting foreign minister told Al Jazeera that Taliban representatives asked the United States in the talks to lift a ban on Afghan central bank reserves.

Biden administration officials told Reuters on Friday the US delegation would press the Taliban to release kidnapped US citizen Mark Frerichs. Another top priority would be to hold the Taliban to their commitment not to allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for al Qaeda or other extremists.

The Taliban took back power in Afghanistan 20 years after they were ousted in a US-led invasion for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The officials said the meeting was a continuation of "pragmatic engagements" with the Taliban and "not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy" to the group, which took control of Afghanistan in August.

US officials say they are in contact with dozens of Americans and legal permanent residents who wish to leave Afghanistan and there are thousands of US-allied Afghans at risk of Taliban persecution still in the country.

Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan. They are trying to work out how to engage with the Taliban without granting the group the legitimacy it seeks, while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.