WASHINGTON: As the United States and the Taliban reengaged in Doha on Thursday, US officials defended the talks, saying that isolating Kabul’s de facto rulers would not promote US interests in Afghanistan.

“We believe that we can accomplish more in Afghanistan by engaging, rather than isolating the Taliban,” a US State Department official told Dawn on Thursday when asked why Washington decided to re-engage the Taliban.

This would be “the first in-person engagement with a high-level Taliban representative since the Taliban’s March 23 decision to ban girls from attending secondary schools,” the official added.

Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi is representing the Taliban in the talks while Special Representa­tive for Afghanistan Thomas West leads the American delegation.

Mr West has replaced former Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad who negotiated the deal that led to the withdrawal of all US forces in Afghanistan and a rapid Taliban takeover in Kabul in August last year.

The State Department told Dawn that the US Treasury Deputy General Counsel Addar Levi and USAID Deputy Assistant Secretary Maria Longi also accompanied Mr. West to Doha, indicating that the talks would focus on financial issues as well.

The US media reported this week that Washington may release about $9 billion of frozen Afghan funds withheld after the Taliban takeover.

The release of funds, if it happens, would help the war-ravaged nation in dealing with the “crises of poverty and hunger” they have faced for years, one of the reports observed.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced additional $55 million for the earthquake victims of Afghanistan, bringing total US humanitarian assistance to the war-ravaged country since last year to over $774 million.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022

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