Taliban officials said they would not help contain extremist groups in Afghanistan during their first meeting with US since the muddled withdrawal of US troops and allies from the nation in August.
US officials were sent to meet with senior Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, this weekend to discuss easing the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from Afghanistan and reigning in extremists groups.
While the Taliban agreed to aid in evacuation efforts, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the Associated Press that there would be no cooperation with America on containing the increasingly active Islamic State extremist group.
ISIS has recently taken responsibility for a suicide bombing on Friday that killed at least 46 Shi’ite Muslims and wounded more than 100 others who were praying at a mosque in Kunduz.
Video footage showed bodies surrounded by debris inside the mosque, which is used by the minority Shi’ite Muslim community.
The blast, which the United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan called part of a disturbing pattern of violence, follows others in recent days at a mosque in Kabul and a religious school in the eastern province of Khost.
Michael Kugleman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the US-based Wilson Center, said Friday’s attack could be a signal of more violent attacks in Afghanistan.
Despite the violence, Shaheen said the terrorist group would be tackled ‘independently,’ from the current talks.
The meetings in Doha are the first since the US ended the 20-year war in Afghanistan with President Joe Biden ordering a rushed and chaotic withdrawal of troops that concluded at the end of August.
US State Department officials told Reuters that ‘the continued safe passage out of Afghanistan of US and other foreign nationals and Afghans to whom we have a special commitment who seek to leave the country’ is among the key priority for the meetings.
US officials estimate that there are about 100 US citizens still seeking evacuation from Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken blamed the Trump administration, who brokered the deal to pull out of Afghanistan in 2020, for the chaotic evacuation.
‘We inherited a deadline; we did not inherit a plan,’ Blinken said.
There are currently camps set up at the airport filled with people waiting to flee Afghanistan.
US officials asserted that the meetings with the Taliban does not mean it recognizes them as a government, the AP reports, as the group continues to face backlash over their rule of the land.
The world has been watching whether the Taliban will live up to their initial promises of tolerance and inclusiveness toward women and ethnic minorities.
However, Taliban actions so far, such as renewed restrictions on women and the appointment of an all-male government, have been met with dismay by the international community.
Protests against the Taliban’s policies toward women continued Tuesday, with a demonstration in a Kabul private school by female teachers and students who held up signs saying ‘Education is a right.’
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