• Spokesperson says there will be no cooperation with Washington on containing IS
• US officials say meeting is not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy
DOHA: The Taliban warned the United States not to “destabilise” the regime during their first face-to-face talks since the US withdrawal, its Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said on Saturday.
“We clearly told them that trying to destabilise the government in Afghanistan is good for no one,” Muttaqi told the Afghan state news agency Bakhtar after talks in the Qatari capital.
“Good relations with Afghanistan are good for everyone. Nothing should be done to weaken the existing government in Afghanistan which can lead to problems for the people,” he said in a recorded statement translated into English.
Muttaqi’s remarks came on the first of two days of talks with a US team led by the State Department’s Deputy Special Representative Tom West and top USAID humanitarian official Sarah Charles.
He said the US would also help vaccinate Afghans against Covid-19.
No immediate comment on the talks was available from the US side.
“The delegation from the US decided that they will cooperate with us in vaccination and will provide human cooperation,” Muttaqi said.
He added: “It is being promised that states will have good relations with one another and have patience while Afghanistan is passing through a very tough time, so Afghanistan will come out of this condition with more strength.”
The Taliban regained power in August as the United States ended its two-decade occupation with a withdrawal that included a chaotic airlift of foreign residents and Afghans.
The group’s efforts to consolidate their rule have been undermined by a series of attacks by the militant Islamic State (IS) group, who claimed a bombing of a Shia mosque that left more than 50 people dead on Friday.
However, before talks between representatives of the two sides, the Taliban ruled out cooperation with the United States to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan, staking out an uncompromising position on a key issue.
Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said there would be no cooperation with Washington on containing the increasingly active IS in Afghanistan. “We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, when asked whether the Taliban would work with the US to contain an IS affiliate. He used an Arabic acronym for IS.
Economy in crisis
Afghanistan’s economy is also teetering on the brink of collapse, with international aid cut off, food prices rising and unemployment spiking.
Muttaqi said the Taliban wanted to hold meetings with other countries as well as the US to discuss Afghanistan’s difficulties. “We are trying to have such meetings and gatherings with the US and other countries of the world and to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan, listen to one another’s opinions,” he said.
“The issues that people of Afghanistan are facing in terms of economy or any other issues should be resolved. The existing government of Afghanistan is committed to having good relations with other states and cooperate with others, to facilitate its people and provide them services.
“This is what we want and we are trying to discuss these areas with other countries.”
During the talks, the Taliban representatives asked the US to lift a ban on Afghan central bank reserves, Muttaqi said in remarks reported by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television.
The minister added that the Afghan delegation and US counterparts discussed “opening a new page” between the two countries.
Before the talks, a US State Department official said its priorities were securing safe passage for US and other citizens who want to leave Afghanistan, and making sure the Taliban do not allow “terrorists” to operate on Afghan soil.
“This meeting is not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy. We remain clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban’s own actions,” the official said.
Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2021